13 January 2005 Edition

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£250,000 cost of Orange march

The cost of the operation which saw the PSNI guard an Orange march and escort members of the UDA up the Crumlin Road at Ardoyne on 12 July last year cost over £250,000.

A letter sent to community groups in North Belfast from the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin revealed that the bill for the massive PSNI operation, which hemmed nationalists behind steel barriers, cost £255,000. These figures do not include the cost of the British Army operation on the day.

The PSNI were criticised by nationalists after they allowed UDA members and supporters to proceed up the Crumlin Road, despite a Parades Commission ruling that banned so-called hangers-on from marching through the Ardoyne area.

The decision led to a falling out between the PSNI and the Parades Commission and sparked some of the worst rioting in Belfast for years.

Spokesperson for the Ardoyne Parades Dialogue Group, Gerard McGuigan, said the real damage was to the efforts being made in trying to improve community relations.

"It would be better to get another viable route that would take these sectarian marches away from Ardoyne," he said. "Taxpayers are paying for a sectarian march to go past an area where those representing these groups won't even sit down and talk with the residents."

The NIO said the cost of policing operations was a matter for PSNI chief Hugh Orde. A PSNI spokesperson said the cost of the marching season in 2004 for the whole of the Six Counties was £5.5 million.


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