Policing flag protests cost £15m

The bill for policing the ongoing protests over the Union flag in Northern Ireland has already surpassed #15 million, the PSNI said today.

The bill for policing the ongoing protests over the Union flag in Northern Ireland has already surpassed #15 million, the PSNI said today.

Thu, Feb 7, 2013, 00:00

The £15 million-plus bill for policing the Union flag protests in Northern Ireland is twice the amount spent by police on the entire marching season in the region last year, commanders have warned.

The security operation surrounding the ongoing loyalist demonstrations has lasted nine weeks while the traditional parading period extends over six months.

The spiralling financial implications of the public order policing were outlined by Police Service of Northern Ireland Chief Constable Matt Baggott and members of his command team as they briefed their oversight body, the Northern Ireland Policing Board.

Loyalists have been holding demonstrations since early December when Belfast City Council voted to limit the number of days the flag flies over City Hall.

A number of the pickets have descended into serious rioting with almost 150 police officers injured in the disorder and nearly 200 people arrested. The youngest detained so far was 11 and the oldest 69.

“The past nine weeks have seen the Police Service of Northern Ireland hold the fragile line between peace and disorder in Northern Ireland,” Mr Baggott said as he updated the board in Belfast at its first public meeting since the new year.

“This has come at a cost both physical and financial. A large number of officers have been injured and the cost, both the opportunity cost and cash cost, is already above £15 million.”

He welcomed the fact that some of the tension around the issue has appeared to have dissipated in recent days.

“The police have played a very full and thoughtful part in ensuring that a very tense and volatile situation did not and does not spiral out of control or compromise the future,” he added.

PA

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