Belfast Telegraph

Call for MLAs' pay to be redirected to help meet the policing bill for recent mayhem

Cost will run to millions, warns former Assemblyman

PSNI is counting the cost of policing contentious loyalist bonfires in Belfast and a sectarian interface in Derry
PSNI is counting the cost of policing contentious loyalist bonfires in Belfast and a sectarian interface in Derry
Former UUP MLA Ross Hussey
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

The policing bill for recent disorder in east Belfast and Londonderry will easily run into millions, an ex-officer has warned.

Former UUP MLA Ross Hussey, who served as an RUC reservist, called on Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley to help the Chief Constable cover the cost.

The PSNI said it did not yet have figures available for the recent operations, which saw hundreds of officers deployed in east Belfast and Derry.

"It's very difficult to give an exact figure, but it's obviously going to be hugely expensive," Mr Hussey said.

"We've had the terrorist threat with shots fired and petrol bombs directed towards officers.

"The police have to respond to protect the civilian population and they're stuck in the middle.The Chief Constable's answer will be that he has no choice but to deploy the forces.

"I support him in that, but there will be a cost."

He said the scale of the operations would add further pressure to the PSNI's alreday stretched budget.

"As we've no Assembly to pass a policing budget it's up to Westminster," he added.

"Maybe if she was to redirect the salaries of the MLAs, it may help.

"I would say it wouldn't take very long at all to run up a bill of £1m in a day.

"You have to take into account all the overtime that has to be paid, but also officers injured on duty that have to take time off, as well as those suffering from stress."

UUP MLA Alan Chambers also served for 15 years as a part-time RUC reservist.

He said it was difficult to count the cost at this stage, but it would be "a very substantial sum of money".

"I do know that at a time like this officers would be doing very lengthy shifts with quite short turnarounds before going on duty again," he said.

"These are conditions you probably wouldn't put up with in the private sector and would be running to your trade union about.

"But being the type of service the police is, that's what they do. In recent days I know officers will be getting by on just a few hours sleep before coming in for another lengthy shift."

Mr Chambers attended a briefing with Mr Hamilton yesterday morning. He said morale remained high.

"I would say the senior officers were confident and upbeat after the last few days, certainly not an organisation that was on the backfoot by any stretch," he added.

"I was in the command room of the police headquarters, it was a very slick operation and people were getting on with their jobs.

"The senior command were also very complimentary of their officers out on the ground, as well as their willingness to try and stop the violence."

On Wednesday night a senior officer said they had intelligence that the UVF intended to "orchestrate and participate in serious disorder".

However, yesterday Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd told BBC Radio Ulster that disorder didn't "materialise on a wide scale", despite a rampage that saw multiple cars hijacked and burnt out in east Belfast and Co Down. ACC Todd said police "were able to keep that under control".

He added that a UVF commitment to the rule of law in April was "at odds" with the destructive scenes witnessed.

Amid major disruption, 13 vehicles were hijacked and torched, while Belfast City Airport was placed under lockdown as police dealt with a suspicious object on the Sydenham bypass.

The Fire Service received 327 emergency calls between 6pm and 1am, up 23% from last year.

East Belfast Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle said that while most bonfires took place in a peaceful manner, the Department for Infrastructure was right to take action when lives and property were at put risk.

He called on all political parties to work with the PSNI against the "scourge of paramilitarism" and to challenge "self-appointed spokespeople who serve only to raise anger and division".

Tensions were high after the High Court ordered the removal of bonfire material on Bloomfield Walkway.

In the early hours of Wednesday the pyre was set alight before it could be removed, with a heavy police presence remaining the rest of the day. Yesterday morning the only sign of the fire was the smouldering remains of some tyres.

Belfast Telegraph


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