£601,000 of taxpayers money was spent on policing this year’s parades and protests in the village of Rasharkin, it has been revealed.
The new statistics, released to the Northern Ireland Policing Board, were delivered by ACC Will Kerr at the board meeting last week.
ACC Kerr acknowledged that the cost would have been a fraction of that had the parade not been contested by some local residents, according to North Antrim DUP Assemblyman and Policing Board member David McIlveen.
It is believed the major outlay of the costs were at the Ballymaconnolly Band Parade in Rasharkin in August which saw a huge police operation swing into place as a protest was mounted.
In a statement to the Times the MLA condemned the cost of policing the protests as ‘extortionate costs’ and hoped the figures would ‘cause those who seek to molest peaceful parades by the loyal orders to see that futility and irresponsibility of their actions’.
Commenting afterwards Mr McIlveen said: “I was shocked and surprised to hear the full extent of the cost of policing the protests in Rasharkin. ACC Kerr explained to the Policing Board last week that the full cost to tax payers was £601, 000.
“ACC Kerr was very clear that these extortionate costs would not have escalated if some local residents had not made the decision to protest. This is a huge amount of public money, which has sadly had to be used in this way. The average staff nurse earns around £25, 000, therefore this money could have been used to pay 23 nurses salaries this year.
“Parades are not expensive to police as over 3,000 per year take place without any obstructions, making the only cost to the public purse that of traffic management which in itself is negligible.
‘The cost to the public however comes from parades where mobs of protesters are brought onto the streets, drafted in from all parts of Northern Ireland and the police then have to deliver public safety.
“This is exactly what happened in Rasharkin and it is the intolerance of those who seek to obstruct a peaceful parade in the village that have cost the tax payer in North Antrim over £600,000.
“I hope that the release of these figures will cause those who seek to molest peaceful parades by the loyal orders to see that futility and irresponsibility of their actions is not just heightening sectarian tensions, but also leaving tax payers from all communities to pick up the bill.”
Commenting on the cost of the policing of parades in Rasharkin this year Daithí McKay MLA said: “The situation pertaining to parades is unsustainable not only in financial terms but in terms of cost to community relations.
“The total annual cost for policing parades across the north has risen from £5.7 million to £7.4 million since 2011.
“The PSNI has said that there should be a debate about whether those organising such processions should contribute to the costs to police these parades.
“I think that most people would agree with that, especially in circumstances where there is a refusal to act responsibly and engage in dialogue to resolve issues pertaining to a parade.
“The public expect local politicians to work towards a resolution to these parading problems and that is what we now need to see across the political spectrum.
“In a lot of these cases it is the excesses of parades that are the main issue as hundreds of parades can and are facilitated without any issue.
“The scene at St Matthew’s Church in East Belfast where bands were cheered on to play loudly outside the chapel recently was shocking but what was more galling was the refusal of any unionist leader to criticise that act.
“Mature leadership is needed and I hope that it is forthcoming as we seek to amicably resolve parading issues in the year ahead.”