North Belfast riots cost over €1m

Riots in north Belfast over July 12 cost police £1.1m (€1.3m) , it was revealed today.

It would have funded a neighbourhood policing team of eight officers working in Ardoyne for three years, police chief constable Matt Baggott added.

Several police officers were injured during three nights of violence which began on July 12 after a loyal order parade through the nationalist estate.

More than 40 people have so far been charged with the trouble across Belfast over the same period.

Mr Baggott told the Policing Board in the city: “Unfortunately that area will no longer get the 24 police officers over the three years that they would have got had we not spent £1.1m (1.3m) policing that parade.”

Police came under fire from missiles and explosives during some of the worst violence for years after an Orange Order parade.

More than 80 Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officers were injured during three nights of unrest in the republican neighbourhood.

A man was charged with attempted murder and riotous assembly after a piece of masonry was dropped on the head of a policewoman during the Ardoyne trouble. She was fortunate to escape serious injury.

The police are facing demands to make savings with a recruitment freeze one of the steps forced upon managers as part of wider public service cut backs.

Mr Baggott added: “The reality is that we spend £1.1m (€1.3m) in a three-day period preventing people from losing their lives and preventing disturbances from moving to something far more traumatic and damaging. There was not the control of the communities, there was not the control of the young people.

“The overwhelming feeling I have about these events is one of great sadness. I would have liked to have spent money on creating neighbourhood policing that wins hearts and minds and improves people’s lives. The reality is I don’t have £1.1m now.”

People from across Ireland were blamed for the trouble and many local residents attended a protest against the rioters.

The violence was part of an upsurge in dissident republican activity which has seen bomb attacks on a police station in Londonderry and the injury of three children by an explosion in Lurgan, Co Armagh.

Mr Baggott said there had been a three-fold increase in the number of people facing terrorist charges this year compared to last year, from 17 to 54.

He faced criticism from a board member about the police use of baton rounds to fight off rioters.

Sinn Fein member Alex Maskey said: “It is a disaster waiting to happen.”

He warned if a life was lost there would be a sea-change in attitudes to policing among nationalists, who have engaged with the PSNI and co-operated with many of its probes.

The chief constable said: “If we did not have AEPs (attenuating energy projectiles) there is nothing between the use of lethal force and the use of a baton.

“We would have individual police officers who would be exposed, not only their own safety but the safety of others.”

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