Ahead of US President Biden’s visit, UK raises terror threat level in Northern Ireland to ‘severe’
29 March, 2023 | Pragati Singh
The threat level posed by Northern Ireland-related terrorism is constantly monitored and subject to formal review on a regular basis.
MI5, the UK’s domestic counterintelligence and security agency, raised the terrorism threat level in Northern Ireland from “substantial” to “severe” on Tuesday, ahead of US Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to the country. On Tuesday, UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Chris Heaton-Harris announced the decision to raise the threat level to “severe,” implying that an attack is highly likely. However, the White House has stated that the change will not affect Biden’s plans to visit the United Kingdom, according to CNN.
“In recent months, we have seen an increase in levels of activity relating to Northern Ireland Related Terrorism, which has targeted police officers serving their communities and also put at risk the lives of children and other members of the public. These attacks have no support, as demonstrated by the reaction to the abhorrent attempted murder of DCI Caldwell,” in a written Ministerial Statement, Heaton-Harris said.
Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell, a high-profile police officer in the country, was shot several times in front of his son and other children at a sports complex in Omagh, County Tyrone, in late February.
Heaton-Harris advised the public to remain vigilant but not alarmed, and to continue to report any concerns to the Northern Ireland Police Service. Northern Ireland’s political future is determined by the democratic will of the people, not by the violent actions of a few. We will work together to ensure that the violence of the past does not reoccur. The threat level posed by Northern Ireland-related terrorism is constantly monitored and subject to formal review on a regular basis.
“This is a systematic, comprehensive, and rigorous process, based on the very latest intelligence and analysis of factors that drive the threat. The threat level review takes into account a range of factors and analysis of recent incidents,” the statement added.
According to the news, Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell was shot several times by masked men in February at a sports complex in Omagh. At the time, Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) stated that the force’s primary focus was on “violent dissident republicans,” and a number of people have been arrested since the attack.
Northern Ireland has evolved into a peaceful society over the last 25 years. The Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement exemplifies how peaceful, democratic politics can benefit society. However, a small number of people are still determined to harm our communities through politically motivated violence.
US President Joe Biden announced earlier this month that he would visit Northern Ireland to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA), also known as the Belfast Agreement. According to CNN, Biden also announced a trip to the Republic of Ireland.
While the exact dates for Biden’s visit have yet to be determined, the White House has stated that the change in terror threat will not prevent the president from visiting. Notably, the anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement falls on April 10. However, Biden is expected to visit later in the month.
According to CNN, White House deputy press secretary Olivia Dalton told reporters aboard Air Force One on Tuesday, “No, it does not have any potential implications for future travel.”
Dalton further said, “I think as some of you may be aware, according to the UK authorities this announcement returned Northern Ireland to the threat levels they have been at for the last 12 years, reversing a downgrade that occurred just last year.”