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PSNI helicopter called to Ardoyne almost every day since January

A PSNI helicopter was tasked to fly over north Belfast 243 times between January and October this year.
Connla Young

A POLICE helicopter has flown over north Belfast almost once a day since the start of the year.

Figures obtained by a local community group reveal that between January 1 this year and the middle of October the PSNI chopper was tasked to north Belfast 243 times.

The PSNI also reveal that the figure does not include the number of times the helicopter flew over the district while on its way to another area.

The figure also excludes British army flights over the area.

The figures were released after a Freedom of Information request by Greater Ardoyne Residents’ Collective.

The group says local people have complained about low-level chopper flights in the area.

GARC spokesman Aidan Ferguson said it is believed some of the air activity is connected to the ongoing loyalist protest at nearby Twaddell Avenue.

"It’s not around the Shankill, it’s not in Woodvale, that whole thing is on the Ardoyne community," he said.

In its response to GARC, the PSNI said that it can "neither confirm nor deny" if it holds any other information to the request on "national security" and other grounds.

Mr Ferguson said it "is clear Ardoyne is under siege from the air and ground and even if you want to challenge it, you can’t because of national security."

Area Commander for North Belfast, Chief Inspector Gavin Kirkpatrick said north Belfast "is one of the busiest policing areas" in the north.

"The helicopter has been used to assist officers on the ground in a wide variety of deployments including investigating car crime, searching for vulnerable and missing persons, combatting burglaries, traffic management, security alerts, terrorist related activity, public order situations and interface tensions.

"As with every other aspect of providing a policing service, the helicopter is deployed on an appropriate and proportionate basis with the overriding objective of keeping the entire community of North Belfast safe."

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