‘They can’t keep me out’: Biden vows to visit Northern Ireland despite MI5 raising terror threat level

UK security service increases Northern Ireland terror threat level to ‘severe’ as Chris Heaton-Harris blames ‘small number’ of individuals for escalating threat

US President Joe Biden’s planned trip to Northern Ireland will not be affected by an increase in the terror threat level, a White House spokeswoman has said.

As the category was raised to “severe” on Tuesday, deputy White House press secretary Olivia Dalton downplayed the change.

“No, it does not have any potential implications for future travel,” Ms Dalton told reporters aboard Air Force One.

“I think as some of you may be aware, according to the UK authorities this announcement returned Northern Ireland to the threat levels they have been at for the last 12 years, reversing a downgrade that occurred just last year.”


When asked by White House reporters whether the heightened terror threat would keep him from visiting Northern Ireland, Mr Biden replied: “No, they can’t keep me out”.

Precise dates for Mr Biden’s trip have not been finalised, although he is set to visit both the Republic and Northern Ireland to mark the 25th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement next month.

MI5 increased the terror threat level from “substantial” to “severe”, meaning an attack is highly likely.

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris cited a “small number” of individuals who remain determined to use “politically motivated violence”.

Announcing the change on Tuesday, he urged the public to “remain vigilant” but “not be alarmed”.

Mr Heaton-Harris said a “small number of people remain determined to cause harm to our communities through acts of politically motivated violence” as the terror threat level was raised.

“Over the last 25 years, Northern Ireland has transformed into a peaceful society.

“The Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement demonstrates how peaceful and democratic politics improve society,” he said.

“However, a small number of people remain determined to cause harm to our communities through acts of politically motivated violence.

“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.”

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times