President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that nothing would stop him from visiting Northern Ireland after the terror threat level in the region rose to “severe” less than two weeks before the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.
despite of Biden’s trip has yet to be confirmed by the White House, and DailyMail.com revealed that he is expected to visit Belfast and Dublin next month.
On Tuesday, Britain MI5 security service increased its risk assessment from ‘significant’ after police were targeted by politically motivated groups.
It makes no difference to President Biden, who has spoken enthusiastically for months about his plans to visit his ancestral island.
“They can’t keep me out,” he told DailyMail.com.
However, the new assessment will overshadow plans for a VIP welcome to Belfast next month to celebrate an agreement that helped end decades of violence.
President Joe Biden said raising Northern Ireland’s terrorism alert level would not make much difference to plans for the visit. He said, “They can’t turn me away.”
Biden is one of the American dignitaries expected to arrive in Northern Ireland next month to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement in Belfast that ended decades of violence.
Former President Bill Clinton, who was in power at the time, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are among the notables to fly across the Atlantic.
Northern Ireland Minister Chris Heaton-Harris revealed the shift in a statement to British Parliamentarians earlier on Tuesday.
Sectarian tensions have been running high for some time, most notably with the attempted assassination of Chief of Detectives John Caldwell in Omagh last month.
US officials played down the potential impact on travel plans.
“No, it does not have any potential implications for future travel,” White House spokeswoman Olivia Dalton told reporters aboard Air Force One.
“I believe, as some of you may realize, according to the UK authorities, this declaration has returned Northern Ireland to the threat levels it has had over the past 12 years, reversing the downgrade that occurred only last year.”
However, the situation threatened to escalate against the backdrop of a row over post-Brexit rules. The pro-British Democratic Unionist Party refuses to take part in power-sharing in protest of import rules – with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s new Windsor framework package yet to succeed in getting them back to Stormont.
The terror threat level in Northern Ireland has been raised to ‘severe’ from ‘substantial’ – meaning an attack is considered highly likely, according to MI5’s assessment.
Northern Ireland Minister Chris Heaton-Harris announced the threat level
Tony Blair said Biden’s visit to the North would “advance peace”
Tony Blair said Joe Biden’s visit to Northern Ireland would help “advance peace”.
The former prime minister played down concerns that the US president’s proud Irish heritage might prevent him from being seen as an honest broker.
In an interview with British television station ITV ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement he helped craft, Blair said people were “right” to criticize the way one side could stop power-sharing.
But he cautioned that a review of the agreement would only succeed if all parties agreed on what to do.
Blair said he hoped the DUP would eventually join Rishi Sunak’s new Windsor framework that rewrites post-Brexit protocol.
The Good Friday Agreement has the ability to revise. It is one of the terms of the agreement.
“The problem is, if you want to change the current arrangements, it is very difficult to do that unless you have all the major parties on board.
People are absolutely right when they say, why should one partner veto the entire system.
In the end, there is a good case to review. But you’ll only get a successful review if everyone is on board.
Asked about Biden previously comparing the plight of Irish Catholics under British rule to the Israelis’ treatment of the Palestinians, Blair said: “You know, I’ve known Joe Biden for a very long time. He has a strong Irish heritage, which he’s very proud of.”
But I would be very surprised if President Biden came to Northern Ireland and did anything other than advance the process.
The threat level for the rest of the UK remains at ‘substantial’, which means an attack is considered ‘likely’.
Northern Ireland was demoted to a senior level a year ago – the first time it has changed hands since 2010.
Biden was invited to Northern Ireland by Sunak earlier this month.
I know it is something very special and personal for you. The Prime Minister said to the American President, “We would like to be with you.”
Biden responded by saying he had every intention of getting invited soon.
An invitation from the Republic of Ireland followed soon after.
Biden is among the US politicians who can claim a role in helping advance the deal. He was a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that pushed the Clinton administration to spread its political influence and broker the deal.
His Irish heritage was a frequent touchstone for his political speeches, and he has described how his family left their homeland “because of what the British were doing”.
Last year, on St. Patrick’s Day, he outlined what his Irish heritage had given him and other Irish immigrants.
“Hope is what created the Emerald Isle, a nation of poets, patriots, saints, scientists, artists, and engineers,” he said at the White House.
Hope has made us look to the far horizon. He urges us to overcome every obstacle. It tells us to try again when we fall short, to get up every time we fall.
Heaton-Harris said the threat level review “takes into account a combination of factors and analysis of recent incidents.”
“The decision to change the threat level was taken by MI5 independently of ministers,” he said.
The public should remain vigilant, but not alarmed, and continue to report any concerns they have to the Police Service in Northern Ireland.
Over the past 25 years, Northern Ireland has turned into a peaceful society. The Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement shows how peaceful and democratic politics improve society.
Yet a small number of people remain determined to harm our communities through politically motivated acts of violence.
In recent months, we have seen increased levels of activity related to Northern Ireland-related terrorism, which targets police officers serving their communities and also endangers the lives of children and other members of the public.
These attacks have no backing, as evidenced by the reaction to DCI Caldwell’s reprehensible attempted murder.
I pay tribute to the tremendous efforts of Police Service Northern Ireland and security partners, and the determination and resilience of the people of Northern Ireland, who are making Northern Ireland a safer place to live and work.
The political future of Northern Ireland depends on the democratic will of the people, not the violent actions of the few. Together, we will ensure that the violence of the past does not return.
Biden accepted British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s invitation to visit Northern Ireland during a meeting in San Diego earlier this month. He is also invited to the Republic of Ireland
DUP leader Sir Geoffrey Donaldson has called on the government to fund more police officers in the area.
“It is bad news for Northern Ireland when the risk of further attacks moves to ‘probable’ or ‘very likely’,” he said.
I look forward to the day when the threat level is removed, but to get there society must stand by the police and prove there is no room for terrorism in Northern Ireland in 2023.
The government has committed to help fund the 7,500 PSNI officers but has yet to deliver on that promise.
“With police officers facing such a threat, now is the time for the government to provide this additional funding to ensure the Police Service in Northern Ireland has the full capacity to address this threat.”