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Sunday, July 4, 1999 Published at 14:12 GMT 15:12 UK


Drumcree: A £14m 'waste of money'

Cost of policing Drumcree could escalate if protests continue

The cost of the massive security operation in Drumcree has been branded as a "desperate waste of money" by the province's top police chief.

The RUC Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan put the annual cost of policing the Drumcree protest at £14m.

He said: "It cost something in the order of £11m last year and when you add the associated costs, it cost something nearer to £14m."

[ image: Flanagan: Officers must be protected]
Flanagan: Officers must be protected
In an interview with BBC Northern Ireland he added: "That's a desperate waste of public money. Money that could be put to better use and should be put to better use."

The Drumcree Orange march and the associated protest have required a major security presence in Portadown, County Armagh, for the past five years.

In August last year the Police Authority said policing the Drumcree protest had pushed the RUC £14 million over budget.

Detailed figures about last year's operation revealed that:

  • The RUC's overtime bill was £14m (twice the amount for the same period last year.)

  • The cost of transport and catering over the massive security operation surrounding Drumcree and other disputed parades brought unplanned spending for the month to £11m.

  • The total number of man hours worked totalled 27,300 a day over July compared with the planned level of 8,500.

Human cost

The Search for Peace
Sir Ronnie said that the dispute had also resulted in a human cost for his officers.

He insisted he is determined to protect them and their families from attacks similar to that which led to the death of RUC Constable, Frankie O'Reilly last year.

He said some officers were concerned about the safety of the families while they spent long shifts policing Drumcree.

"It's their primary concern and it's my primary concern. I need to ensure that they have the reassurance that while they are here doing what they have to do their families and their homes are protected," he said.

[ image: Huge security operation]
Huge security operation
The chief constable added that the security cordon around the protest area has been placed so that police and troops are further out of reach from any possible attacks.

He said: "We had automatic gunfire directed at our officers and blast bomb attacks and I have a duty of care to protect our officers.

"Decent people needn't come near to those physical measures which we have put in place. They should stay away.

"But if there are others with evil intent who want to attack out officers, well then I am determined to put such measures in place and such distance that it would make it difficult for them to do so."

Sir Ronnie said it was hard to determine how long the increased security presence would be needed at Drumcree.

He said: "I hope they'll not have to be here for very long. I hope people will realise that what they have to do is behave peacefully and with dignity and lets get this over as quickly and peacefully as we can."

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