Terror alert issued as Biden travels to Belfast
President Joe Biden is facing “logistical issues” following rumors of a planned terrorist attack in Belfast. Biden is set to visit both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland for four days starting Tuesday for the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.
There, he is expected to meet with a number of business and political leaders including Irish President Michael D. Higgins and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
According to sources, Biden was originally set to make a speech at Stormont, home of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the local Parliament. On Saturday, it was reported that he would only be making one appearance in Northern Ireland — at the new campus of Ulster University in Belfast.
"We are looking forward to what will be a very special day in the University’s history, and to hosting President Biden on his first visit to Northern Ireland since becoming President,” stated Vice-Chancellor and President of Ulster University, Professor Paul Bartholomew.
This change is seen by some as a political snub, considering that Biden will only be in Northern Ireland for less than a day and spend the rest of the time in the Republic of Ireland. Yet the real reason appears to be a security issue.
It’s Not Personal
It was recently reported that the Police Service of Northern Ireland received “strong intelligence” suggesting a planned terrorist attack a day ahead of his arrival.
While it is not aimed at Biden directly, it is believed that the "dissident Republicans" will try to make headlines with his visit.
Easter Monday is reportedly often a tense day for political activists, as it makes the anniversary of the Easter Rising rebellion against the British in 1916. Each year, a parade takes place in Londonderry to mark the occasion and there have been numerous instances where things turned violent.
MI5 has also recently raised threat levels in the area following an attack in Co Tyrone, which the IRA has been blamed for.
Although Biden has not issued any comment regarding the supposed change in travel plans, local politicians and officials sympathize with the decision.
Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris, for example, said that he didn’t see Biden's brief stay as a snub and instead sees it as a “positive event” and one that he is looking forward to.
In addition, considering that Stormont has not been active since last February after the Democratic Unionist Party boycotted the assembly, it is seen as understandable why Biden would want to skip it.
“I mean, why would he go to an empty building? He might as well go to a wake,” said Former Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.
Social Democratic and Labour Party MP Claire Hanna was also understanding of Biden’s decision, citing the political situation at Stormont.
Although the official agenda of Biden’s visit has not been made public, it is known that aside from Belfast, Biden will make an appearance in Dublin, Co Louth, and Co Mayo.
He will also be making a speech at the Irish Parliament, albeit without his security.
The chamber of the Dail in Dublin, according to sources, does not permit guns. Therefore, all secret service agents will have to stand at least two meters away from the president, outside the room.