UK cuts threat level for Northern Ireland attacks

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British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis walks at Downing Street, in London, Britain, February 21, 2022. REUTERS/Tom Nicholson

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BELFAST, March 22 (Reuters) - The United Kingdom lowered its Northern Ireland-related terrorism threat level for the first time in more than a decade on Tuesday, with police saying operations against Irish nationalist militants were making attacks less likely.

The threat in the region from domestic groups has been lowered to "substantial" from "severe", according to an independent assessment by the MI5 domestic spy service, the British government's minister for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis said in a statement.

That means at attack is considered "likely" rather than "highly likely." It is the first time it has changed since 2010.

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Several groups of dissident Irish nationalists remain active and carry out occasional attacks, but their capacity is tiny compared with the Irish Republican Army (IRA), which decommissioned its weapons after a 1998 peace deal.

That deal ended a three-decade conflict between Irish nationalist militants seeking unification with the Republic of Ireland and the British Army and pro-British loyalists determined to keep the region of Northern Ireland under British rule.

Britain's decision to leave the European Union and the subsequent introduction of trade restrictions between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom have triggered angry rhetoric from politicians in Northern Ireland but it has not translated into any significant violence.

The head of the Police Force of Northern Ireland welcomed the move and pointed to work it had done to tackle the New IRA, a small ground of militants opposed to the 1998 peace deal, which was accused by police last year of planting a booby-trap bomb found in the car of a part-time police officer. read more

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Reporting by Kate Holton and Amanda Ferguson; Writing by Conor Humphries, Editing by Kylie MacLellan

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