Northern Ireland's terror threat level has been raised from "substantial" to "severe," it was announced today, Tuesday, March 28.
The threat to Northern Ireland from Northern Ireland Related Terrorism has been increased by MI5, the UK's security service, from ‘substantial’ (an attack is likely) to ‘severe’ (an attack is highly likely), Northern Ireland Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris said on Tuesday.
The increased terror threat level comes just ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, which will see dignitaries gather in Northern Ireland, as well as a visit from US President Joe Biden, which is reportedly set to begin on April 11.
Heaton-Harris said in a statement on Tuesday: “The threat level to Northern Ireland from Northern Ireland Related Terrorism is constantly monitored and is subject to a regular formal review. This is a systematic, comprehensive, and rigorous process, based on the very latest intelligence and analysis of factors which drive the threat.
"The threat level review takes into account a range of factors and analysis of recent incidents.
“The decision to change the threat level is taken by MI5, independently of Ministers."
In light of the heightened threat level, Heaton-Harris said: “The public should remain vigilant, but not be alarmed, and continue to report any concerns they have to the Police Service of Northern Ireland."
He continued: “Over the last 25 years, Northern Ireland has transformed into a peaceful society. The Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement demonstrates how peaceful and democratic politics improve society.
"However, a small number of people remain determined to cause harm to our communities through acts of politically motivated violence.
“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.
“I pay tribute to the tremendous efforts of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and security partners, and the determination and resilience of the Northern Ireland people, who are making Northern Ireland a safer place to live and work.
"The political future of Northern Ireland rests with the democratic will of the people and not the violent actions of the few. Together we will ensure there is no return to the violence of the past.”
Addressing the increase of the Northern Ireland Related Terrorism threat level, PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne said: “We will relentlessly pursue those who seek to cause harm and terrorise our communities, and attack my officers and staff, and I pay tribute to them as they continue to deliver for our communities.
“I would also like to thank the community and political leaders of Northern Ireland for their overwhelming support for the Police Service in recent times.
“We will not be deterred from delivering a visible, accessible, and responsive community focused policing service to keep people safe.”
Michelle O'Neill, the Vice President of Sinn Féin, the largest political party in Northern Ireland, said: "A quarter century on there is no place or space for paramilitary groups in a modern, democratic society. They must go."
Today’s announcement that the level of threat has been increased comes against the backdrop of the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. A quarter century on there is no place or space for paramilitary groups in a modern, democratic society. They must go.— Michelle O’Neill (@moneillsf) March 28, 2023