Twaddell police bill was £22m but £250,000 for the final two days
The final hours of the Twaddell/Ardoyne parading stand-off cost a quarter-of-a-million pounds to police, it can be revealed.
A compromise agreement to end the dispute was finally reached in September — three years after an Orange Order parade was banned from returning along the Crumlin Road.
Under the agreement the parade could proceed early on the morning of October 1, and nationalist residents’ group Cara would not stage a protest.
But a second residents’ group, Garc — which refused to back the deal — objected and organised a rally the night before. It also protested during the morning parade.
The cost of the policing operation around the final two days of the dispute was at least £250,000.
In response to a Freedom of Information request by the Belfast Telegraph, the PSNI said public order units were deployed across the wider Twaddell, Woodvale and Ardoyne areas on the Friday and Saturday.
It estimated the total cost of the policing operation for the two days at around £250,000. This was made up of additional costs — police overtime and national insurance contributions — and opportunity costs, such as duty time.
The PSNI also revealed that the policing operation across the 1,140 days of the stand-off is estimated to have cost £22m.
The duration — from August 20, 2013 to October 2, 2016 — saw police overtime figures of £16,134,767 and duty time figures of £6,746,854.
Scores of officers were injured in violence that erupted at the interface over the three years.
In 2015 alone more than 20 police and a 13-year-old girl were injured when trouble erupted after the return leg of a July 12 parade was blocked.
One officer had to undergo surgery to reattach his ear after it was “effectively severed” when hit by a piece of masonry.
North Belfast DUP MLA Nelson McCausland laid the blame for the costs on the decision
by the Parades Commission in 2013 to bar the Orange parade from passing the Ardoyne shops.
“All of the expenditure was unnecessary and was purely the result of the capitulation by the Parades Commission to the most strident and sectarian strands of republicanism,” he claimed.
“The fact that so much had to be spent on the last couple of days to address the situation that was stoked up by those extremists from Garc shows indeed that it is the case.
“All this, the long-term situation and the astounding expenditure over the last couple of days was really the outworking of the decision by the Parades Commission to capitulate to these people.
“Until that sort of sectarianism — which we saw demonstrated by some of the protesters — is addressed, our society is not going to really move forward as it should.”
SDLP policing spokesman Daniel McCrossan slammed the multi-million pound cost as a “disgrace”.
“The eye-watering cost of policing the Twaddell dispute over the last three years is absolutely staggering,” he said.
“Some £22m of public money and police time has gone up in smoke at a time when public services have been cut, support for the vulnerable has been cut and people across the north are feeling the axe of austerity grinding down on them.
“It’s nothing short of a disgrace, and those parties which offered political cover for the (Twaddell) camp should be ashamed.
“Thankfully, the protest and related policing operation has now ended and we can all focus on the work of reconciliation in north Belfast and across the north.”
The dispute started in July 2013 when the Parades Commission denied permission to three Orange lodges to complete their march home along the Crumlin Road. Loyalists set up Camp Twaddell as a permanent protest.
It was dismantled shortly after the parade had been allowed through following the compromise agreement in September.
The Police Federation for Northern Ireland said policing Twaddell has had a heavy impact on the hundreds of officers who were on the front line.
“Officers worked long hours and many were injured as they carried out their duties,” it said.
“They had their family lives disrupted and were taken away from other policing duties in the areas where they were based.
“The monetary cost was significant at a time when the service was under financial pressure.
“We’re hundreds short of a peacetime minimum number of officers and our hope is that the millions saved policing Twaddell will not be lost to the service, but rather redirected into areas in desperate need of additional resources.
“There is a danger that any savings will be lost, and this should be resisted.”