Northern Ireland Risk Report
Security travel advice for the Northern Ireland
Threat level: Medium
The current travel safety advice for Ireland is to remain vigilant, there is a general low crime rate in Northern Ireland with most stays are trouble free however there are areas prone to demonstrations especially during times where political or religious tensions may be prominent in the region of both Northern and The Republic of Ireland. Please note that the UK government has rated the current threat level for Northern Ireland-related terrorism in Northern Ireland is SEVERE (highly likely).
Recent Security Risk Events
There are key dates during the year where security threats from demonstrations or civil disturbances may be more likely. 12th July is the main event for the orange order - a protestant organisation. A march takes place in memory of the battle of Boyne. In the past there have been known incidents of violence and rioting with the police and other rival groups at prominent locations where Catholics and Protestants meet.
There is a heightened risk of civil disturbance over from April through to August. The last Saturday in August known as “Black Saturday “ which is the end of the marching season, and is a date in which civil unrest can break out without warning and have violent incidents between groups and the police. Please as with all demonstrations and large public gatherings with the likelihood of turning violent please avoid and make your way to a safe area. In recent years much has been done by the police to prevent disturbances and provide a safe barrier.
In January 2017 a policeman was wounded in a gas station at Belfast by what was thought to be individuals with involvement in the Irish republican movement. A few weeks later a man and woman were shot in Northern Ireland while attempting to protect their son from paramilitaries also in Belfast.
Northern Ireland safety has greatly improved in recent years, it has a rich political and cultural history with many tourist locations to visit. It has a significantly lower crime rate in Belfast as compared to any other city in the United Kingdom. As with all tourist locations be aware of street crime, pickpockets and car theft, however if you carry out normal safety precautions your stay should be trouble free.
The “troubles” which occurred between 1968 and 1998, fuelled by territorial tensions, does give Northern Ireland a violent reputation. This dispute has affected many generations deeply, but also affected Ireland, England and as far as Gibraltar.
During “the troubles” there were over 3,600 fatalities and 50,000 injured. Unionist or more extreme Loyalists supporting Northern Irelands continued union with Great Britain, and Nationalists or more extreme Republicans wanting a united country with the Republic of Ireland have disagreed over the status of Northern Ireland. The Good Friday agreement was brought into effect, and a peace process which would de-escalate the violence of the past 30 years was put into place. This has seen an end to most of the issues, including the bombings and the shootings which took place, however there are still active groups which debate Northern Ireland's future and have been known to use violence as a means to carry their message. As such this does make the risk of small targeted terrorist attacks more likely than some other European countries however it is unlikely and a majority of visits are trouble free.
There are still underlying tensions and localised incidents. The people of Northern Ireland are a warm and friendly to their visitors, it is best if you are respectful of the country’s past. Avoid political discussions and do not wear insignia or clothing of which would align your allegiance to any political or religious denomination.
There are some levels of segregation within the towns and villages in which the majority of the town’s area are either Protestant or Catholic, however this should not impact any tourists stay to the area.
Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom (UK), although it has had much of its own political history, further information regarding international ties and developments are linked to the UK. Please see the United Kingdom page for further information.
Please be advised that some roads nearing the border can transverse over the Sothern Ireland and Northern Ireland borders. The road signs and speed limits in the Republic are in km/h whilst road signs in the North are all mph. There is freedom of movement between the two countries with no fixed border checkpoints, however the Irish police (An Garda Siochána) have been known to check passports at the border occasionally. Please make sure you have appropriate photo identification and/or passport with you.
Weather can be unpredictable in Northern Ireland especially near to the coastal and higher areas. Be prepared when travelling for wind and rain, which can make some roads more dangerous.
There are many narrow, twisty roads especially near to the countryside and coastline so be mindful and drive with caution. There are known areas which have a higher rate of accidents in Northern Ireland which are the circuit of main roads around Coleraine, Portstewart and Portrush.
Religion: Christianity (Protestant & Roman Catholicism)
Currency: Pound Sterling
Time now in Belfast:
Only British Nationals, European Union citizens, members of the EEA (Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland), Switzerland, and members of the overseas countries and territories do not require a visa to enter Northern Ireland. The Commonwealth or the United States of America do not require a visa for entry to Northern Ireland. If you are not applicable to the aforementioned please check with your local embassy for visa instructions.
It is advised that all visitors to Northern Ireland are up to date with all routine inoculations such as Tetanus, however there are no specifically recommended vaccinations required.
Other health risks
Water and sanitary conditions in Northern Ireland are to a good standard. Hospitals are of a good quality.
U.S. Embassy Belfast
223 Stranmillis Road
Belfast, BT9 5GR
Telephone: +44 28 9038 6100
Other useful info
Police emergency: 999
Fire emergency: 999
Medical emergency: 999