THE TERRORISM threat level in Northern Ireland has today been reduced for the first time in twelve years.
MI5 made the decision independent of government, lowering the threat level from 'severe' to 'substantial'.
The change brings Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the UK.
The change reflects the assessment that the threat to the region from Northern Ireland Related Terrorism (NIRT) has reduced, and is the first time the level has been lowered since it was initially published in 2010.
The move to 'substantial' however means that an attack is still 'likely' and may occur without further warning.
The Northern Ireland Secretary said in a statement:
"The fact that the threat level is being lowered from where it has been since September 2012 is a testament to the Government's ongoing commitment to protecting the peace process and tackling Northern Ireland-related terrorism, as well as the tremendous efforts of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and MI5 for their hard won gains over the past decade that have helped to make Northern Ireland a softer place to live and work.
"Despite the change in the threat level, terrorism remains one of the most direct and immediate risks to our National Security and to communities in Northern Ireland. There remains a small group of people determined to destabilise the political settlement in Northern Ireland through acts of terrorism."
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis said the change in threat level is a "testament to the tremendous effort of the PSNI and the MI5 and their hard won gains over the last decade.
"The government remains committed to securing these gains and continuing to make NI a safer, more prosperous society for all."
Today I have announced that the Northern Ireland-related Terrorism threat level has been lowered from SEVERE to SUBSTANTIAL. This is the first time the threat level has changed since 2010. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/TWIdVlqF06
— Brandon Lewis (@BrandonLewis) March 22, 2022
DUP South Antrim MLA and Policing Board representative Trevor Clarke has welcomed the announcement.
"This news is extremely welcome and is testament to the dedication of the PSNI and our national security agencies in disrupting dissident republican organisations and keeping our communities free from harm," he said.
"The warped desire of these groups to wage terror has not disappeared. However, in recent months the police and MI5 have had significant success in frustrating attacks and taking experienced terrorists off our streets."
He also said "there is a need for nationalist and republican politicians to do more to encourage engagement with the police.
"Only by changing mindsets and giving young people who are vulnerable to falling prey to these elements a better stake in society can we end the scourge of terrorism and paramilitarism."
Similarly, SDLP Policing Board member Dolores Kelly said that while the change in threat level showed progress in tackling dissident threat, "there was still a need for vigilance."
"We have seen a number of high-profile investigations and arrests in recent years and that good work must continue," she said.
"We cannot allow the lowering of the threat level to cause complacency within our police force or the general public.
"It is disappointing that we are still dealing with such a high threat level over 20 years on from the Good Friday Agreement. The people of the North have been clear, they want to see an end to violence and there can be no justification for these groups to still exist. It’s long past time we saw paramilitaries of all shades leave the stage."