It has been revealed that £7m (€8.5m) has been spent policing a long-standing loyalist protest over parades in Belfast.

Stormont Justice Minister David Ford also said that policing the loyalist Union flag demonstrations last year produced an additional bill of over £20m.

Serious rioting broke out after the Orange Order was prevented from parading in the nationalist Ardoyne area in Belfast during 12 July demonstrations.

The violence continued for several days after which loyalist protesters set up a protest camp at the flashpoint, and have remained there ever since.

Mr Ford said policing the protest costs £41,000 every day.

That is on top of the millions spent last year policing the loyalist Union flag protests.

Mr Ford said the costs had a significant impact on the PSNI's ability to undertake other work on behalf of the community.