Northern Ireland news

Policing removal of east Belfast bonfires cost £188,000

Police and contractors at Cluan Place in east Belfast as a loyalist bonfire was removed in July. Picture by Mal McCann
Brendan Hughes

A POLICING operation to oversee the removal of two loyalist bonfires in east Belfast cost almost £190,000.

Officers in riot gear flanked masked contractors as they cleared the Eleventh Night sites at Bloomfield Walkway and Cluan Place in July, following safety concerns.

The contractors' bill is being met by Stormont's Department for Infrastructure (DfI) and Belfast City Council (BCC). Both have refused to disclose the cost, insisting that rates are "commercial in confidence".

However, the PSNI has confirmed its policing costs at Bloomfied Walkway hit £121,457 and at Cluan Place £67,261.

About £115,000 related to overtime paid to officers, according to details released to the BBC following a Freedom of Information request.

It is believed around 700 police officers were involved in the operation across both sites.

Contractors were sent to Bloomfield Walkway to remove bonfire material after a High Court judge directed DfI to take action following legal proceedings brought by BCC.

It followed concerns that the towering pyre posed a serious threat to nearby homes. The bonfire was set alight just as contractors moved in to try to remove it.

The Cluan Place bonfire was also dismantled before the Eleventh Night after fire crews raised concerns over its closeness to properties.

In its FOI response, the PSNI said it mounted a "significant policing operation" at both sites to assist statutory agencies.

Chief superintendent Jonathan Roberts said the PSNI worked with DfI and BCC ahead of July 11 in an attempt to secure a "community supported resolution".

He said that following the court order, police were asked by the landowner DfI to support its contractors.

"Whilst police had planned for such a contingency, the decision to remove the material was taken by the landowner," he said.

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