Belfast Telegraph

Alliance anger at Ulster Unionist query over policing bill for protecting MP's office

BY AMANDA FERGUSON

The Alliance Party has hit out at Ulster Unionist MLA Michael Copeland after he questioned how much it cost to police Naomi Long's east Belfast office during the flag protests.

Mr Copeland has queried why the PSNI was able to provide the cost of policing the ongoing Twadell Avenue protests in north Belfast but not the costs protecting the Alliance Party office between December and May.

Following Belfast City Council's historic vote on December 3, 2012, to limit the days the Union flag flies – from every day to designated days – a death threat was issued against Alliance Party deputy leader Naomi Long.

Yesterday, Michael Copeland MLA posted a copy of a Freedom of Information request on his 'East Belfast UUP Advice Centre' Facebook page, regarding the number of hours and costs associated with protecting Naomi Long and her office in the aftermath.

Under the image of the letter he wrote: "We are told that it costs £50,000 to police the peaceful protest at Twaddell Avenue, fair enough. How much did it cost to police the Alliance Party office in east Belfast during the flags dispute? Or Naomi Long's home? PSNI can't tell us..."

The PSNI response said that information was not available and could not be analysed from the total cost of policing the district.

When Mr Copeland was challenged he said: "Comparison is fair when figures are provided for one and not for the other, why?"

Last night, Alliance Party MLA Chris Lyttle said: "It is deplorable to compare the response to a criminal threat on an individual's life with the cost of policing unlawful protests.

"These comments will be seen as politically motivated, tasteless and beneath contempt."

Last night, Mr Copeland failed to respond to Belfast Telegraph requests for a comment.

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