Why Has British Intelligence Labeled the Threat in Northern Ireland as “Severe”?

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British intelligence agency MI5 has upgraded the danger in Northern Ireland from “substantial” to “severe,” meaning that an attack is highly likely. The level was raised to its second-highest category after recent attacks on police stations and weeks before political leaders are due to gather in the province to celebrate the 25th anniversary of a peace deal that essentially ended three decades of violence.

President Joe Biden of the United States has accepted an invitation to visit Northern Ireland in April, as he stated earlier this month. Bill and Hillary Clinton will also make appearances at jubilee celebrations. Chris Heaton-Harris, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, recently urged the people to be on high alert and to report any suspicious activity they encounter.

Northern Ireland has been under a severe threat classification since MI5 was implemented in 2010. For slightly over a year beginning in 2022, it dropped to significant. Chief Constable Simon Byrne of the Police Service of Northern Ireland vowed that the force would maintain its commitment to “deliver a visible, accessible, and responsive community-focused policing service to keep people safe.”

The three decades of sectarian violence in the region were largely ended by a peace deal in 1998, but there are still isolated incidents of violence directed at police officers. These incidents are typically carried out by small splinter groups composed primarily of nationalist militants who are opposed to Britain’s authority over the region.

The new IRA, a much smaller group than the Irish Republican Army, which disarmed after the Good Friday Accord was formed, has been accused of carrying out a gun attack last month that left an off-duty officer seriously injured.

His attackers were members of the new IRA, the largest and most active dissident group with main bases in County Tyrone and Londonderry. Earlier security assessments estimated that of the group’s 500 followers, 100 were actively planning terrorist attacks. The group emerged in 2012. On Tuesday, the PSNI’s Terrorism probe Unit announced that “a quantity of ammunition” had been discovered during a planned search probe into the New IRA in Ballymagroarty in Derry.

CWEB has provided some information for this story.

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