Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Politicians must share the blame over parades and flags, says MLA Dolores Kelly

Concerned: Dolores Kelly

The failure of political leaders to reconcile bitter disputes over parades and flags has been blamed for an increase in crime.

Policing Board member and SDLP Upper Bann MLA Dolores Kelly said the increase in crime over the last year illustrated the urgency needed to bring an end to continuing disputes on parades she said were draining the PSNI of resources and their capability to do their job effectively.

Ms Kelly described the overall increase as "extremely concerning" and said it highlighted the damaging effects of disputes, such as that at Twaddell Avenue in north Belfast.

She said the nightly protests – on-going since the banning of Twelfth parade in the area – were taking front line policing out of communities and away from tackling everyday crime.

Ms Kelly said: "Police need to be able to do their job properly, however given the Twaddell Avenue saga and the forthcoming marching season, it looks as if they will continue to be hamstrung by that element in our society which seems hell-bent on allowing crime to rule and, for that, the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister must accept some of the blame because of their failure to tackle division in Northern Ireland.

"The PSNI are trying to police a divided society and deal with that every day, picking up the pieces, whilst politics and wider civic society have a clear duty to tackle the causes."

The cost of policing the long-standing protest at Twaddell is equivalent to £35,362 per day.

The dispute has led to a major ongoing police presence.

In February, Justice Minister David Ford revealed that in the period to December 31, the cost of policing the camp was £5,450,000 – an average of £31,500 every day. It now costs almost £4,000 per day more.

Not all of the costs are associated with loyalism. Three PSNI Land Rovers came under automatic gunfire nearby on the Crumlin Road on December 5, 2013.

And a teenager was charged after a police officer's face was slashed with a Stanley-type knife on New Year's Day.

He was also accused of damaging a banner at the loyalist protest camp.

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