£1m to bring the Olympic torch to Northern Ireland? 'It was money well spent'
A policing Board member has told critics of the £1m bill for policing the Olympic torch relay in Northern Ireland to get real.
David McIlveen called for a sense of perspective after the figure was revealed following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the police, with the exact cost to the taxpayer totalling £1,029,749.
In comparison, according to a Metropolitan Police briefing paper, it cost the Met almost £750,000 to police the Olympic torch relay in London.
The Metropolitan Police Force covers Greater London which has a population of almost 8m people, and the torch relay was in the city for seven days.
The Olympic Torch Relay travelled around Northern Ireland for five days from June 3-7.
But Policing Board member and DUP MLA, Mr McIlveen, said he could understand the extent of the cost incurred in Northern Ireland and said it is unreasonable to contrast the figures for both areas.
“When you compare it to the cost of policing needless disputes over parades I think that puts it into perspective,” he said.
“Every pound is a prisoner but at the end of the day, particularly when it comes to high-profile events like that, there are those within our society who are hell-bent on bringing havoc.
“There was obviously a significant threat from dissident republicanism. I think we need to be careful of comparing it like-for-like with the Metropolitan police bearing in mind the bill for security at the Olympics full-stop ran into billions of pounds rather than millions, so I think we have to be careful how we look at these statistics.
“Both the Queen’s visit and the Olympic Torch relay were hugely successful events.
“They brought a feel-good factor to Northern Ireland, brought people out from all sides of the community and, whilst we can’t be complacent about cost, I think we have to put it into perspective of the overall benefit.”
The request also asked the PSNI's Freedom of Information Department how much it cost to police the Queen's Jubilee visit to Northern Ireland but that was turned down on “national security” grounds.