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Editorial: Vigilance still needed after threat level lowered

The lowering of the security threat level in Northern Ireland for the first time in 12 years, described as 'significant' by the chief constable, indicates that progress is being made in reducing terror-related violence in our society.

However, the move from severe to substantial, while welcome, means that a serious threat remains and tells us that more work is needed to stop the unjustified actions of all groups and individuals intent on continuing their violent campaigns.

The announcement on the threat level was made by secretary of state Brandon Lewis yesterday following a decision taken by MI5.

It is the first time the level, which is subject to continuous review, has been lowered from severe since it was first published in 2010.

Substantial means that a terrorist attack is likely, as opposed to highly likely, and might well occur without further warning.

There is no doubt the police and security services have made considerable inroads in terms of thwarting the threat posed by dissident republicans.

Many of these individuals have been convicted through the courts and received lengthy prison terms in some cases.

It is also true that these organisations do not enjoy widespread community support, indeed their violent activities are rejected by the vast majority of people.

While yesterday's move is a positive sign, the PSNI is also warning against complacency.

As assistant chief constable Mark McEwan pointed out: "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.''

It is extremely unlikely that police and prison officers who have been targeted in the recent past will be letting their guard down any time soon.

We should remember that it is less than a year since dissidents attempted to kill a PSNI officer in Dungiven after a bomb was attached to a container of flammable liquid next to her car, close to where her three year old daughter would sit.

We are also approaching the third anniversary of the murder of Lyra McKee, shot dead as she observed a riot in Derry.

Many in our society know only too well the pain and suffering resulting from appalling acts of violence.

Knowing what these groups are capable of will mean that ongoing vigilance is required.

But we must hope that the remaining terror gangs realise the futility of their actions and step away from violence for good.

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