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Cost of policing of loyalist Twaddell protest camp at Ardoyne interface 'rises to £12 million'

By John Mulgrew

The cost of policing a loyalist protest camp in north Belfast at the heart of the ongoing parading dispute has now risen to £12 milllion, according to the Deputy First Minister.

The ever-rising bill was raised by Martin McGuinness in the Assembly today as Sinn Fein and the DUP wrangled over a continued impasse on Northern Ireland's budget.

"Of course we could all get into the politics of whataboutery," he said.

"People talk about £40,000 a night to police Twaddell Avenue - that's £280,000 a week and, over a period of 12 months, that's a figure of some £12 million, which could quite easily employ 200 new nurses or 200 new teachers."

Nightly protests continue to take place in the Ardoyne interface with a permanent protest camp at Twaddell Avenue following a Parades Commission decision to refuse an Orange Order march from passing by the stretch of the Crumlin Road that separates unionist and nationalist areas.

Violence flared in the unionist Woodvale area in July last year following the decision.

There been several applications for the bands to pass by the stretch - each time they have been refused.

Meanwhile in the Assembly today, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness rejected claims his party blocked welfare reform cuts to enhance its electoral chances in the Republic.

Northern Ireland's Executive is facing a financial crisis and potential collapse, having failed to agree a plan to absorb some £220 million of cuts in the next six months.

A significant amount of that sum - £87 million - is a penalty imposed by the Treasury for the administration's inability to agree to implement Westminster's welfare reforms.

The new system has been blocked by Sinn Fein and the SDLP who argue that it would still cause too much hardship to the poor.

As a result the Executive is facing crippling fines from the Treasury, forcing cuts in other areas.

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