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Somme parade cost more than £160,000 to police

Police erect a steel security barrier to block off the nationalist Short Strand area during last summer's Somme parade in east Belfast
John Monaghan

A TWO-HOUR parade to commemorate the Battle of the Somme, which saw the erection of a steel security barrier at an east Belfast interface, cost more than £160,000 to police.

In one of the largest parades of 2015, more than 2,000 people along with 35 bands marked the 99th anniversary of the World War I battle last summer.

A total of £162,865 was spent on policing costs, including more than £121,000 on overtime payments and fleet expenses, according to a Freedom of Information request.

Steel security barriers, first used during the G8 summit in Fermanagh in 2013, were erected along the Albertbridge Road to block the march from the view of residents of the nationalist Short Strand.

The PSNI said it was unable to provide a cost for the barrier as it was deployed at a "number of PSNI operations over the summer 2015 period".

The parade passed off without major incident, although three people including a 13-year-old were arrested and one police officer suffered a head injury when a missile was thrown.

Hundreds of supporters gathered at the Mount and lined the Albertbridge Road as the parade took place.

Among the bands taking part were the controversial Young Conway Volunteers and the Pride of Ardoyne flute band, who have both been accused of breaching Parades Commission determinations in the past.

However, all the bands abided by the ruling, with the parade starting and dispersing within the allotted time.

There had been several sectarian attacks at the interface in the month leading up to the march, adding to fears that serious violence could have broken out.

The Parades Commission noted that there had been "little or no" engagement between the organisers and residents of the Short Strand.

The commission urged that ahead of this summer's centenary parade, discussions between residents and members of the Ballymacarrett Orange Order should take place urgently.

At the time of last summer's parade, Sinn Féin councillor Niall Ó Donnghaile said that while "by and large" the parade had passed off peacefully the security operation was "not conducive to good policing".

In 2015 the total cost of policing parades across the north was £6.7 million.

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