Published Tuesday, 01 April 2014
The scene of the bomb attack, outside Victoria Square's underground carpark. (© Pacemaker)
The details of the payments to what the police call "covert human intelligence sources" have been revealed in a freedom of information request submitted by UTV.
The PSNI has refused to reveal how many informers it has on its books and whether they can be classed as republican or loyalist. It claims that releasing those details could compromise the safety of its sources.
The terrorist threat level in Northern Ireland remains severe with dissident republicans continuing to pose the biggest threat, planting a bomb at Victoria Square in Belfast in December and earlier this month, triggering a device to explode at Belfast City Cemetery as a PSNI landrover passed by.
When people are in a vulnerable position they should not be approached to be a state agent or an informant.
Gerry Kelly, Sinn Féin MLA
The police have long argued that informers are a valuable weapon in their fight against terrorism.
Informers were paid a total of £422,000 for the 2012/2013 financial year.
The figure highlights a slight drop on the previous year 2011/2012 when informants were paid £434,000 in total.
Those figures have remained relatively stable over the last four years.
Gerry Kelly, Sinn Féin Policing Board Member, said that it was a huge amount of money and he wanted to know if it was being spent properly.
"The problem is the way they [informers] are used and the way that public money is used.
"Our history here unfortunately is when they haven't been accountable. We have had state agents [who have] been involved in every sort of crime up to and including murder."
The North Belfast MLA said that the difficulty is if they are not made accountable.
"The amount of money they spend, the amount of informants they have, might be something entirely different."
This is money, in my view, well spent if it saves one life - and how do you put a value on saving somebody's life?
Paul Givan, DUP Policing Board Member
DUP MLA Paul Givan said: "What's important is that it's properly regulated and I have confidence that the police are subject to the proper legislation and [to the] the independent oversight body, which comes in through the Office of Surveillance, and they are there to give us that assurance that they are doing their job properly by way of this money that is used to get information.
"Ultimately, the police need to stand over this amount of money being used to get information from informers.
"However, the past has shown that information of this nature has helped to counteract terrorist activity and it has helped to save lives," the Lagan Valley MLA added.
© UTV News