14/10/2011

Summer Of Post Parade Violence Cost £5.7m

Sectarian rioting is costing the economy dearly with news this morning that the cost of policing parades and associated public disorder during the period from April to the end of August was a huge £5.7m.

Members of the NI Policing Board's Human Rights and Professional Standards Committee have been briefed on the details with members informed of the costs at a meeting with the PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr in a session to discuss the policing of the parading season.

The PSNI said that policing violence defined as that surrounding loyalist events - after 12th July parades for example - totalled £5,216,000 while those associated with republicans totalled £255,000 with the remaining £216,000 categorised at 'other'.

By far the most costly single day was Tuesday, 12th July into the early hours of Wednesday, which topped £1,500,000 alone as severe, organised republican rioting was tackled.

It also emerged that the number of PSNI officers deployed to police parades on Tue, 12th July alone was a huge 3,134 - given the later prolonged street violence across some areas of north Belfast.

The number of parades that required PSNI support was 1,979 and the number of minor parades with no PSNI support as a percentage of total number of parades was 30%, or 866.

The total costs of policing parades, associated protests, bonfires and subsequent public disorder from Sun, 10th July to Wed, 13th July was £2,196,000.

Commenting, the Chair of the Committee, Conall McDevitt said: "Whilst policing costs are broadly similar to those of previous years these figures are still shocking.

"Given current pressures on the policing budget and the public purse I have no doubt the wider community will share the concerns of Board Members on this issue.

"For communities that have been affected by serious public disorder there is a much wider cost that is not measurable in monetary terms but has a very serious community impact.

"These issues need more debate and discussion and as a Board we will work with PSNI, the community and other stakeholders to ensure those conversations happen."

The contender for the forthcoming SDLP leadership bid added that, in addition to costs, questions at the meeting focused on the police handling of contentious parades.

He said they examined how police follow up investigations to incidents of public disorder, the use of force and public order equipment, issues relating to community confidence and the PSNI approach to communications with key stakeholders including communities, the Parades Commission and within the Criminal Justice System itself.

The Committee will return to these issues on 26 October at a meeting arranged to discuss a review initiated by PSNI on the Public Order Response.
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The meeting of the Human Rights and Professional Standards Committee also involved Ryan Feeney (Vice Chair), former Stormont Junior Ministers Gerry Kelly and Robin Newton, Joan O'Hagan, Caitríona Ruane MLA and Deborah Watters.

They were told that the £5.7m is made up of district policing resources, specialist resources, investigation costs, damage to vehicles and operational catering.

The figures only relate to costs of policing parades or disorder directly associated with parades and therefore the separate disorder in east Belfast or the summer trouble in Ballyclare is not included.

Intolerance

The DUP Leader on the NI Policing Board, former Stormont Junior Minister and sitting East Belfast MLA, Robin Newton has said that the costs outlined are in effect the costs of cultural intolerance in Northern Ireland.

"With the ongoing efforts by police to thwart dissident republican terrorists it is vital that the very best use is made of scarce resources within the PSNI.

"The vast majority of parades in Northern Ireland take place without any controversy and indeed 30% of parades can take place with no PSNI support.

"It is unfortunate however that cultural intolerance displayed through the opposition to some other parades imposes such a huge cost on the public purse," he said.

"The plain facts remain that the Orangemen and bands in Ardoyne did not cost the taxpayer over £300,000; it was the intolerance and bigotry of those who attacked the parade and continued to riot afterwards which imposed this cost.

"Similarly the parades in small villages such as Newtownbutler and Rasharkin did not need tens of thousands of pounds to police, it was the intolerance of some within those communities who cannot bear to see any demonstration of their neighbours' culture," he added.

"Opposition to parades - driven largely on intolerance and bigotry - not only costs our society in terms of the tensions created, but places a real financial cost onto the police which could be better spent tackling crime," he concluded.

Dialogue?

Soon after Mr Newton made public his views, his former Junior Ministerial colleague, the Sinn Fein MLA for North Belfast, Gerry Kelly, said there is a "simple solution" to the bill for policing of parades in a five-month period - dialogue.

"Dialogue is the simple solution to what is basically just a small number of parades out of over 3,000 that take place each year yet the only group who have not stepped up to the mark are the Orange Order

"With almost 70% of parades being from the loyal orders there is an onus for them to resolve those with which there are difficulties," he said, this afternoon.

"The agreement over the future of parading reached last year at the Executive produced a legislative way forward however, yet again, the Orange Order blocked its acceptance.

"This policing bill cannot be distanced from that failure," he insisted adding: "There is a huge number of parades that take place each year and they cause no offence and very little cost.

"If everyone sits down round the table on an equal basis then these few contentious parades can be resolved if there is a will there to do it," he concluded.

(BMcC/GK)

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