Chris has pretty much nailed most of the 2013 #Twelfth (so far) apart from one issue which has generally passed almost without comment. A couple of days before the Twelfth, the PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott announced that 630 extra police officers would be deployed for the 2013 marching season. These officers would be drafted in from England, Scotland and Wales. The BelTel on 10th July reported:
Speaking last night, Mr Baggott said the operational move was made as this year represented a “unique July 12” with more than 550 parades, and 43 regarded as “sensitive”.
However, the Parades Commission only received one more application this year (602) than in 2012 (601), with 584 in 2011. Of those, 42 parades were actually deemed sensitive by the Commission in 2013, compared to 40 in 2012 and 33 in 2011. This doesn’t seem to suggest any significant year-on-year increase between 2012 to 2012 to warrant a sudden demand in extra police. The discrepancy in the public statement suggests that some other reason lies behind this decision.
Yesterday it was reported that a further 400 ‘Mutual Aid Officers’ were being called in to support the PSNI.
What is not being commented upon here is why there was a sudden need for 1050 additional police officers in 2013. Clearly the PSNI didn’t have a particularly good lead up to the Twelfth, either in Carrickhill or with the HET. But a very visible outcome of the flags protests was the apparent inability of the PSNI to intervene when handfuls of people brought traffic to a standstill in parts of Belfast.
Wherever the genesis, either within Matt Baggott’s office, or perhaps in spite of it, this is a marked shift in security policy. Historically and up to now, unionist protestors could largely rely on the facilitation of the RUC or PSNI to substantiate their actions. A clear example of this were the flag protest road blockages which were actually enforced by the PSNI rather than by weight of numbers of protestors. Whether that represented a final straw, or some other issue has brought this to a head, it gives the impression that someone in a position of authority has an official lack of confidence in the ability to police political protests either in the PSNI or Matt Baggott.