Joe Biden visit won't be hampered by increase to NI terror threat level

Joe Biden visit won't be hampered by increase to NI terror threat level

President Joe Biden speaks during a Nowruz celebration in the East Room of the White House, Monday, March 20, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

US President Joe Biden has confirmed that his upcoming visit to Northern Ireland will not be hampered by M15's decision to raise the terror threat level there to "severe".

Speaking to reporters in North Carolina, Mr Biden was asked if he was concerned about the increased threat level.

He said: "No. They can't keep me out." 

On Tuesday, the British government raised the terror threat level from "serious" to "severe" — meaning that an attack is "highly" likely to occur.

It comes just weeks ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement and Mr Biden's planned visit to the island of Ireland.

Following the ruling, Britain's Northern Ireland secretary Chris Heaton-Harris said that "a small number of people remain determined to cause harm to our communities through acts of politically motivated violence."

He said: "In recent months, we have seen an increase in levels of activity relating to Northern Ireland Related Terrorism, which has targeted police officers serving their communities and also put at risk the lives of children and other members of the public. These attacks have no support, as demonstrated by the reaction to the abhorrent attempted murder of DCI Caldwell.

I pay tribute to the tremendous efforts of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and security partners, and the determination and resilience of the Northern Ireland people, who are making Northern Ireland a safer place to live and work. 

"The political future of Northern Ireland rests with the democratic will of the people and not the violent actions of the few. Together we will ensure there is no return to the violence of the past."

He also urged the public "to remain vigilant, not to be alarmed and continue to report any concerns they have to the PSNI."

Earlier this month, Mr Biden confirmed his visit to the island of Ireland after British prime minister Rishi Sunak formally extended the invite whilst the pair held talks in San Diego.

Mr Sunak told the president: “I look forward to our conversations and also importantly, to invite you to Northern Ireland, which hopefully you will be able to do and so we can commemorate the anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

“I know it’s something very special and personal to you. we’d love to have you over.”

Mr Biden has said that he intends to visit both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland as part of the anniversary celebrations.

Full details of the visit have yet to be announced but former US president Bill Clinton, ex British prime minister Tony Blair and former taoiseach Bertie Ahern are all expected to attend.

- additional reporting from PA

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