Belfast Telegraph

Concern on NI parades police cover

The body which represents 98% of all police officers in Scotland has voiced concern about its members being called upon to help keep the peace on the streets in Northern Ireland at the height of the marching season.

Some 630 additional officers from around the UK are being brought in to help the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) during the annual Twelfth of July demonstrations on Friday, when a total of 550 parades are due to take place throughout the province.

The Scottish Police Federation (SPF) said it is right that officers from Scotland answer their colleagues' calls for back-up, but warned that the policing environment in Northern Ireland is "totally different to ours".

The organisation, which represents rank and file police officers, said in a statement: "The Scottish Police Federation believes it is right and proper that officers from Scotland help colleagues in the Police Service of Northern Ireland when urgent assistance is called for.

"Whilst our members are highly trained and ready to go, the policing environment in Northern Ireland is unique and totally different to ours, with the constant threat of varying incendiary devices and firearms being used against the police.

"The marching season is hardly an unknown event in Northern Ireland and the SPF has obvious concerns about the policing and political implications as a consequence of the deployment of our members; but we simply cannot ignore calls for help.

"Whilst it is for politicians to examine whether these implications are a price worth paying, we are absolutely clear that mutual aid should not be used as an excuse or reason to underfund and under-resource the PSNI."

News of the deployment of additional officers to help oversee Orange Order parades was revealed by Northern Ireland's police chief Matt Baggott. Overall, around 30 units of specially trained public order officers will be deployed from forces across Scotland, England and Wales to help bolster the PSNI numbers in the event of disorder.

The Chief Constable said the additional officers, trained in the run-up to last month's G8 summit, would help to police the 43 marches deemed to be contentious. But they will not be posted to potential flashpoints such as Ardoyne where the threat of serious disorder is high.

Mr Baggott said: "This is a unique year. If you look at the scale - 550 parades, we have 43 that are sensitive - it would be remiss of me not to plan for every eventuality. This particular year I thought it was wise and the right thing to do to bring people over."

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