£3.8m policing flag protest over one fortnight

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THE total cost of policing the unionist protests against the Belfast City Council-imposed limitation on flying the Union Flag at Belfast City Hall cost £3.8m in the fortnight December 3 to December 17 alone, Justice Minister David Ford has revealed.

“The police have informed me that the total cost for the period 3 December to 17 December has been calculated as £3.8m,” he stated.

“While some of that cost involved redirecting officers from otherwise important work to deal with the disorder, a significant part of it was from the need for additional police resource,” he added.

Mr Ford said the figures from December 17 onwards have yet to be verified.

He also said that the cost of the process was not only financial but human in terms of injuries to officers and the wider cost to the community.

He confirmed that up until January 15 115 people had been arrested and 85 charged.

And over January 5 and 6 special court sittings were requested by the Chief Constable Matt Baggott following which 18 people were remanded in custody.

“I believe that this sends a clear message to the perpetrators that those who choose to become involved in such situations can and will be made to face the consequences of their actions,” said the Minister.

“Furthermore the police investigation into incidents of disorder remains ongoing and we can expect to see more arrests and charges over the coming weeks and months ahead,” he said.

Mr Ford paid tribute to the PSNI for the “courage and bravery” displayed by its officers.

“There is now a challenge for us all to work together to find a solution to the underlying issues and ensure that the scenes of disorder which have taken place since 3 December are never repeated,” he concluded.