Police investigating security breach around President Biden's Northern Ireland visit after sensitive documents found in street
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Police have launched an investigation after a document outlining details of US President Joe Biden’s trip to Northern Ireland was found on the street by a member of the public on Wednesday.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said they were “aware of a security breach,” following the incident that was first reported by BBC Radio Ulster.
“We take the safety of visiting dignitaries, members of the public and our officers and staff extremely seriously and will put the appropriate actions in place,” the police statement added.
The document appears to outline police deployments for Biden’s visit, which began with events Wednesday in Belfast to mark a quarter-century of the Good Friday Agreement.
The BBC has only released a redacted version of the first page of the five-page document and CNN cannot verify its legitimacy.
The document released by the BBC is marked “official sensitive” and dated Monday, April 10. It does not contain any personal details of the president or any other dignitaries or officials associated with the visit.
According to the BBC, the document was found in Belfast, close to the hotel where the US delegation stayed overnight Tuesday.
The US Secret Service released a statement Wednesday saying it was made aware of media reports by PSNI “regarding a potentially sensitive document, which may contain law-enforcement material.”
“While we do not discuss the specifics of any protective operation, the president’s movements were not affected by these reports,” said Anthony Guglielmi, chief of communications for the US Secret Service.
Jocelyn Keaveney, special agent in charge of the Paris field office and whose regional responsibilities include Northern Ireland, said in the same statement she had the “utmost confidence” in Irish and European partners and the ongoing security of Biden’s trip.
“The Secret Service relies on partnerships to provide the highest level of dignitary protection in the world. The Police Service of Northern Ireland is a truly dedicated partner, and we have the utmost confidence in the PSNI’s abilities to work side by side with our agency. We remain grateful for their ongoing support during the president’s visit,” Keaveney said.
Biden departed Washington on Tuesday for a four-day visit to Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland.
In Belfast, Biden gave a speech at the new campus of Ulster University, marking 25 years of the Good Friday Agreement and called for the parties in Northern Ireland to return to the power-sharing government – between those who want to remain part of the United Kingdom and those who favor a united Ireland – that was a central pillar of the agreement.
“We learn anew with every generation a democracy needs champions,” he said, adding later: “As a friend, I hope it’s not too presumptuous of me to say that I believe democratic institutions established in the Good Friday Agreement remain critical for the future of Northern Ireland.”
Biden also met separately with the leaders of the five parties that make up Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government, during which he stressed the importance of resuming the arrangement as part of the Good Friday Agreement’s legacy.
Following the meeting, the leaders issued a renewed call for the restoration of the region’s government.
Michelle O’Neill, the head of the leading Nationalist party, Sinn Féin, posted a picture of herself and Biden on Twitter, saying she was “delighted” to welcome Biden to Northern Ireland.
O’Neill said political parties “must now work together to seize the exciting opportunities ahead of us in a new executive.”
The leaders of fellow political parties also seized the opportunity to call for an end to the region’s political deadlock.
“When one of the largest economies in the world spends its time, effort and money showcasing us, we need to grasp that opportunity with both hands. However, we can’t do that at present due to the political impasse and those causing that need to reflect on their actions,” Naomi Long, leader of the Alliance Party, said in a statement.
Biden is in Dublin on Thursday where he’s scheduled to meet the Irish President Michael Higgins and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, as well as address the Irish house of parliament.