Region of Concern: Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Written By Robert Wargaski; Edited by Cameron Munoz and Jennifer Loy
Date: March 28, 2023
Map of Northern Ireland
Event: On Tuesday, March 28, MI5 increased the threat level of a domestic terrorism attack occurring in Northern Ireland to severe, meaning an attack is highly likely. This announcement comes after recent attacks targeting law enforcement were believed to have been carried out by the New Irish Republican Army (IRA). The New IRA is an offshoot of the original IRA, and it is estimated that the group has around 100 supporters prepared to engage in domestic terrorist operations. In November 2022, the New IRA claimed responsibility for a bomb attack on a patrol car using a homemade explosive device. This increase comes after it was lowered to substantial in 2022. The public is encouraged to remain vigilant and report suspicious behavior to local law enforcement. In a statement by Deputy Chief Constable of Northern Ireland Mark Hamilton, the New IRA targets law enforcement, and the public should not be worried about an attack targeting them.
Significance: Despite the increased threat level, attacks against local law enforcement will likely continue. The New IRA will likely cease carrying out attacks temporarily to regroup and restructure. It is likely that the New IRA will attempt to carry out an attack near mid-April in commemoration of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, as the ceremony is significant to the New IRA. This attack would likely target local law enforcement without any need for additional targets. Any attack conducted by the New IRA would likely involve an improvised explosive device (IEDs). If an IED is used, civilians will likely be injured in the blast. Significant political figures in Northern Ireland are likely to be injured in a blast. An attack would likely cause severe transportation disruptions and impede emergency management services in responding to the attack.
Recommendations: Local law enforcement should increase physical security personnel around Belfast, where the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998. Local law enforcement should engage in public safety media campaigns in the run-up to the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, encouraging the public to report any suspicious activity. Local political leaders in Belfast, such as Lord Mayor Christina Black, should release public statements condemning the New IRA. The New IRA will likely release propaganda in response to these statements, although it is unlikely that anything violent will directly result from any public statements. MI5 should conduct weekly threat assessments of the New IRA and share them with local law enforcement. UK political leaders such as Rishi Sunak should call for peace in the runup to the anniversary. Other western political leaders such as Bill Clinton, who helped broker the Good Friday Agreement, should also call for peace. Transportation services and emergency management services in the runup to the anniversary should work with local law enforcement to ensure mission readiness in the event of an attack.
 Britain raises domestic threat level for Northern Ireland to 'severe', NBC News, March 2023, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/britain-raises-domestic-threat-level-northern-ireland-severe-rcna76960
 Northern Ireland police vehicle hit in suspected bomb attack, ABC News, November 2022, https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/northern-ireland-police-vehicle-hit-suspected-bomb-attack-93550247
 Northern Ireland terrorism threat level rises, BBC, March 2023, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-65096493