Northern Ireland news

Northern Ireland terrorism threat level reduced for first time in 12 years

Detectives from the PSNI's Terrorism Investigation Unit 

The terrorism threat level in Northern Ireland has been lowered from severe to substantial for the first time in 12 years, Secretary of State Brandon Lewis announced.

The decision to change the threat level is taken by MI5, independent of Government.

The threat level is subject to continuous review, and judgments about the threat are based on a wide range of information.

This is the first time that the threat level in Northern Ireland has been reduced from severe since it was first published in 2010.

Substantial means that a terrorist attack is likely and might well occur without further warning.

Mr Lewis said: “This is the first time the threat level in Northern Ireland has changed since 2010 and shows the significant progress that Northern Ireland has made, and continues to make, towards a more peaceful, more prosperous and safer society.

“It is a testament to the ongoing commitment to protecting the peace process and tackling Northern Ireland-related terrorism, and the tremendous efforts of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and MI5 for their hard won gains over the past decade.

“However, it is not a time for complacency. There is still a minority who wish to cause harm in Northern Ireland.

“As ever, the public should remain vigilant and report any concerns they may have to the police.”

Dissident republican terrorist activity has been at a lower level in Northern Ireland in recent years and security services have secured a number of successes disrupting the activities of the terrorist organisations.

PSNI chief constable Simon Byrne has welcomed the reduction in the terrorism threat level in Northern Ireland.

Mr Byrne said: “The independent assessment means the threat has moved from an attack is ‘highly likely’, to ‘likely’.

“This is significant as it signals a success in the long-term efforts made by police officers and staff, our partners, and in particular the community, in achieving the kind of society that we all want and deserve.

“The successes that we have achieved over recent years in preventing attacks, investigating and pursuing groups including the New IRA, has brought us to where we are today.”

The chief constable continued: “Unfortunately, there is still a small group of people within our society who are intent on causing harm and dragging Northern Ireland back to the past.

“We will continue to pursue those individuals and bring them before the courts.

“The public won’t see an immediate change in how we deliver policing, and our priority will remain the same, to deliver a visible, accessible and responsive community focused policing service to keep people safe.”

Mr Byrne warned that there is still a risk from a small number of terrorists in Northern Ireland with “evil intent” to attack police officers and prison staff.

Reacting to the reduction in the terrorism threat level from severe to substantial, Mr Byrne said: “It signals the fact that this is a combination of 10 years-plus of hard work to investigate terrorism, to disrupt it and to work with partners and communities to make it a more hostile place for terrorists.

“So what we are seeing is there is still a risk from a small number of people with capabilities and evil intent to attack police officers, prison officers and police staff.

“This is an independent assessment of how likely that attack is and we will continue to police parts of the country where the risk remains high.”

Mr Byrne added: “I think there are a whole range of things which come into play to make this significant announcement because clearly we have a part to play, we work with other partners in the security space, but crucially the support we get from communities to fight terrorism, to make terrorists unwelcome in their own communities is also really important too.

“The message that our officers and staff will be getting today will be to remain vigilant, both at work and off-duty, because the risk is still there although it is less likely than it was beforehand.”

PSNI assistant chief constable Mark McEwan vowed that terrorist groups who are planning attacks on police officers will be “relentlessly pursued” and brought to justice.

Mr McEwan said: “The announcement today reduces the threat level from Northern Ireland-related terrorism from severe to substantial, meaning that an attack is likely, as opposed to highly likely.

“This comes on the back of years of hard work by police, partners and the community in terms of preventing people who would seek to cause harm, to attack police officers, prison officers and to control their communities, to prevent them from being able to do that and in relentlessly pursuing those people involved in that, to bring them before the courts.

“There is still a small number of people who have intent and capability to attack police officers, to murder police officers, prison officers, and to control their communities.

“Our message to them is that we will continue to work with the community to prevent them from carrying out those attacks and we will relentlessly pursue them to bring them to justice.”

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