Twaddell Avenue policing bill almost £8m, more than £35k per day
'This a staggering figure, money being paid for police resources that are being taken away from other districts'
The cost of policing a long-standing protest at a north Belfast community interface is approaching £8 million – the equivalent of £35,362 per day, new figures have revealed.
Violence flared in the unionist Woodvale area last summer when Orangemen were banned from parading past the adjacent nationalist Ardoyne on their way home from traditional Twelfth of July commemorations.
Rioting broke out on a number of subsequent days and loyalist demonstrators have maintained a continuous presence at a protest camp at the Woodvale/Ardoyne interface at Twaddell Avenue ever since.
The dispute has necessitated a major ongoing police presence.
A statement from Northern Ireland's Policing Board which oversees the police said: "At a time when Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) are facing a range of serious funding pressures, the cumulative costs of this policing operation are extremely concerning.
"In addition to financial costs there is also the very damaging impact of officers being removed from normal policing duties for public order roles."
The bill was confirmed by the board at £7.9 million for the last 224 days, equivalent to an average of £35,362 per day.
SDLP Upper Bann MLA and Policing Board member Dolores Kelly, who obtained the figures, hit out at the huge costs involved.
Ms Kelly, the SDLP Social Development spokesperson, said: "This a staggering figure, money being paid for police resources that are being taken away from other districts.
"This is almost £300,000 which is being taken away from detecting and preventing crime in our communities across the north, which is shocking and unacceptable."
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.