McAleese jaunts cost NI Policing half a million over four years, according to figures obtained by the DUPs Peter Weir and just issued in a press release.
Since her election as Irish President, Mary McAleese has had a disconcerting habit of treating Northern Ireland as an extension of her nations territory, and indulged in frequent and regular jaunts north of the border. While this attitude and behaviour has been regarded as inappropriate by many unionists, it is only now that the practical implications of her actions have become apparent. In answer to a question posed by me at the Police Board of the costs to the PSNI of various visits of heads of state to Northern Ireland, it has emerged that the policing cost of visits to Northern Ireland by the Irish President is £542,991 over the last four years, more than all other international Heads of State combined.
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While I am happy to welcome any foreign visitor to Northern Ireland, particularly from the Republic of Ireland, the frequency of visits from the
Irish President is placing a heavy burden on the taxpayer in Northern Ireland, and diverting much needed resources from our policing budgets.
At a time when many Police Stations around Northern Ireland are faced with closure, mainly through budgetary constraints, and the PSNI are
forced to make other cutbacks to make the books balance, it is surely irresponsible for the Irish President to create such a financial burden.
I would call upon her to play her role in ensuring that policing resources are more properly directed towards tackling crime, by limiting the frequency of
her jaunts across the border.
Her most recent visit to the Shankill seemed finally to set the seal on restored relations after her rare misspeak over comparing Protestant attitudes to Catholics with Nazis to Jews all of four years ago. Weir expresses it in hostile language but hes right to suggest that Mrs McAleeses engagements north of the border emphasise common links consistent with the GFA and are quite different from those of a foreign head of state. Her personal ticket is obvious, though she has set a precedent for a southern born successor. Up to now, apart from a very few glitches like the one noted above, she has been teflon-coated, although vulnerable to unionist sniping.
Will the DUP take up Weirs cry or leave well alone?
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London