£15m policing bill for flag protests

Published Thursday, 07 February 2013
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The cost of policing the loyalist flag protests now stands at more than £15m, PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott has revealed.

FACTBOX: FLAG PROTESTS (DEC 2012 - JAN 2013)
Total cost of policing
£15.6m (includes duty time and overtime)
Average cost per day
Over £200,000
Number of officers injured
146
Number of arrests
200
Age of the youngest arrested
11
Age of the oldest arrested
69
Max number of protests during Operation ‘Standstill’
80

During a Policing Board meeting on Thursday, Mr Baggott said 200 people have so far been arrested by detectives investigating the disorder.

The youngest person to be detained was 11, while a 69-year-old was the oldest to be questioned about violence that broke out following loyalist flag protests.

A 42-year-old man was the latest to be arrested on Thursday following a search of a house in Newtownards.

A firearm, recording equipment, footage and other items were removed from the house as part of the investigation.

The man was charged with offences including possessing explosives, possession of a firearm and theft. He is due to appear before Bangor Magistrates' Court on Friday.

Demonstrations have been held in towns and cities across Northern Ireland since the Belfast City Council vote in December to reduce the number of days when the Union flag is flown.

While many have involved roads being blocked and what police have described as peaceful protests, unrest has broken out at some - with officers being pelted with bricks, fireworks and petrol bombs.

Mr Baggott revealed that 146 police officers have been injured since the disorder began.

During some of the worst scenes of disorder near the Short Strand area of east Belfast, nationalist homes were also damaged when rival crowds clashed.

The cost of policing the recent protests and disorder has come at a high cost to policing, both in terms of human cost and financial costs.

Chief Constable Matt Baggott

The Chief Constable acknowledged there had been criticism of police performance during the protests. But he said, before any action was taken, the force considered if the protest is legitimate, necessary at that time, and proportionate.

"Serious violence has, in the main, been contained in a few locations thanks to the courage and professionalism of my colleagues," he said.

"I know there are views that we should be taking firmer action, but we have to look at the implications of that."

During the meeting, it was revealed that between 20 and 80 protests had taken place on a number of nights in locations across Northern Ireland. The Chief Constable dispelled any comparisons between the union flag protests and the riots in London during summer 2011.

"The scale of this has been exceptionally challenging - this is incomparable with the London riots," he explained.

"The London riots were mass looting. These were riots that involved deep undercurrents of sectarian tension, grievance and, looking back in history, the potential to cause enormous damage."

We need to have a clear break now so that we enter the marching season and clearer, calmer heads prevail.

ACC Will Kerr

Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr said the fast approaching marching season, amid the current disorder and heightened tensions, was very worrying.

"The first parade we will be facing this year is on 23 February, which is only a couple of weeks away.

"So I think it's incumbent on everybody - civic leaders, community representatives, politicians and the police - to work incredibly hard to try and get a resolution for this flags issue now, so that the marching season does not take place against this volatility, against this community tension," he said.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
47 Comments
Tommy Atkins in London, England wrote (432 days ago):
Mr Sensible I read yourpost and truly there is a lot of sense in all you wrote I truly look forward to any other comments which you may post.Especially If they are like the one below. Your words are refreshing to hear Sir.
realistic in planet earth wrote (434 days ago):
Stephen in Belfast, don't forget the 16th (Irish) Division too :), if I remember correctly from school the Irish were the first sent 'over the top' on that fateful day Stephen - 'Lambs to the Slaughter'.......... Now Stephen, I can understand were you are coming from BUT let's please remember the Irish who were there too. Also remember that those brave men were fighting a war against the grandson of Queen Victoria - talk about keeping it in the family, so sad that innocent brave men were caught up in such a conflict. And Stephen, they were all fighting against oppression......... not necessarily for the love of a flag.....
Eamo in Belfast wrote (434 days ago):
To shore road loyal i totally agree the money was wasted on the Bloody Sunday enquiry. The british government and army should held their hands up when it happened and said yes we murdered people all of them innocent. It was because they were catholic. It is a shame also that the soldiers and state officials still have not tutned themselves in and stop wasting more money.
William in Belfast wrote (435 days ago):
DUP-Democratic unionist party Meeting held at council was yes a Democratic vote on flags Therefore why is there a protest or an issue the main unionist party should change its name because there should have been no comments made after this vote was taken by them or anyone else in unionism. The DUP ex leader went on for years about democracy now when this doesnt work your going to cry about it shame on you protesters and everyone assoicated with unionism after all this your a joke and putting a major stain on the countrys rep. Solution for unionists go out and vote at the next election get more polictical influence if not then be quiet
Jack in London wrote (435 days ago):
Stephen it will fly on designated days only, what is wrong with that? Thats what happens here in London, most town halls in London boroughs never fly the flag. What makes Belfast so different?
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