01 October 2005

£285,000: That's what it cost to police the marching season

Belfast Telegraph

By Nevin Farrell
01 October 2005

THE cost of policing 193 parades in the council district with the second lowest population in Northern Ireland was a whopping £285,000, it has been revealed.

Ballymoney has a population of around 28,000 and a senior police officer, speaking at a meeting of the area's District Policing Partnership, revealed that manpower, planning and other costs from local budgets for parades for this year's marching season from February to September was £160,400.

Chief Inspector Allan Barton said that covered everything from church parades to larger 'orange' and 'green' marches and stressed the figures included the cost of all officers on duty anyway at the time of parades.

But in addition, it cost £125,920 for tactical support group units to be drafted in to the area to police 'contentious' parades.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that out of that £125,920 figure it cost £52,000 to police one contentious parade alone - that of Ballymaconnelly Sons of Conquerors Flute Band which was met with a nationalist protest in Rasharkin in August.

The costs for that parade included standard policing, overtime, meals, travelling, planning and five tactical support groups.

Mr Barton said parades had been "a way of life" in Ballymoney and Northern Ireland in general and he said he was not making any comment on the "rights or wrongs" of parades. He said in February next year they will have a new system which will be able to tally the policing costs of parades "to the penny".

Independent member of Ballymoney DPP Michael Fleming asked if the police could foresee circumstances where those who organise events requiring police attendance and traffic control like sport and "parades of any sort" will be required to contribute to the PSNI's costs.

Mr Fleming said the costs of the average parade "is a hell of a lot more money than the people who are holding them are raising for their funds".

Mr Barton replied that in England football clubs made a contribution towards policing costs at matches and said it would be a decision for the Government if any such system was to come in for events in Northern Ireland.

DPP member north Antrim DUP MLA Mervyn Storey said that many band parades provided marshalls to help with events and he said there are many smaller parades when the events can be effectively marshalled without police input.

He said he had attended parades in the past when, because of events elsewhere in the province putting pressure on resources, the police told them to look after their own events.

Mr Barton said that at contentious parades police had to prepare themselves for the worst possible scenario but he said they were fortunate in the Ballymoney area this year that there was no violence at parades.

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