The level of the terrorist threat in Northern Ireland has been raised from "important" to "serious" by the security services, announced Tuesday, March 28, the British government, shortly before an expected visit by US President Joe Biden for the 25th anniversary of the peace agreement.

Announcing this increase, decided by MI5, the British government highlights "the increase in the level of terrorist activity", referring to the recent attempted murder of a police officer.

An attack is "highly likely"

This level means that an attack is considered "highly likely", said in a written statement to Parliament the British Minister for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris, stressing that the public must remain "vigilant" without being "alarmed".

"Over the past 25 years, Northern Ireland has transformed itself into a peaceful society," "however, a small number of people remain determined to harm our people through politically motivated acts of violence," it said.

It refers to the attempted murder of police officer John Caldwell, who was shot several times on 22 February by two men while coaching children in football in the town of Omagh.

The attack, unanimously condemned by the British province's political leaders, came shortly before the 25th anniversary of the peace agreement, signed on 10 April 1998, after three decades of deadly conflict that left 3,500 people dead.

Police suspect the New IRA, a dissident republican group, which has admitted responsibility for two attacks in recent years. In April 2021, a bomb was planted under the car of a policewoman in front of her home.

Local political institutions paralyzed

"The political future of Northern Ireland rests on the democratic will of the people and not the violent actions of a few," said Chris Heaton-Harris, "together we will ensure that there is no return to the violence of the past."

The province is also at a delicate political moment: if London and Brussels have finally reached an agreement on the post-Brexit provisions in the province, local political institutions are still paralyzed because of the boycott of the unionists of the DUP, viscerally attached to the membership of the British province in the United Kingdom.

DUP chief Jeffrey Donaldson called MI5's decision "bad news," expressing in a statement his hope that the terror threat would one day be lifted. "But to achieve this, the public must support the police and show that there is no place for terrorism in Northern Ireland in 2023," he added.

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

The leader of the Republican party Sinn Fein Michelle O'Neill, set to become Prime Minister of the province in case of restart of local institutions, stressed on Twitter that there is "no place for paramilitary groups", "they must go".

With AFP

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