Northern Ireland

Australians warned over visiting Northern Ireland

The Australian government has issued advice to travellers following trouble in Northern Ireland
Image caption The Australian government has issued advice to travellers following trouble in Northern Ireland

The Australian government has issued advice to people travelling to Northern Ireland following recent trouble.

Its Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it is due to an upsurge in dissident republican attacks and parade related riots.

Australian citizens have been told they could inadvertently get caught up in violence.

South Down MP Margaret Ritchie said the travel advice was "an over-reaction" and NI was "open for business."

She said she would write to the Australian Ambassador in Dublin and High Commissioner in London to invite them to Northern Ireland.

There has been a rise in tensions and violence across Northern Ireland in recent weeks.

More than 40 people were charged with rioting in Belfast over the Twelfth of July period.

Two bombs were defused in County Down on 4 and 8 of August and a car bomb exploded outside a police station in Londonderry on 3 August.

'Avoid all protests'

Three children, aged between two and 12, suffered minor injuries when a bomb exploded in a bin in Lurgan, County Armagh, on 14 August.

In May 2010, the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) reported the dissident republican threat in Northern Ireland remained highly active and dangerous.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs has warned citizens of bomb attacks aimed at police and military targets.

On the government's travel advice page it said: "Australians could inadvertently be caught up in violence directed at others."

The department also advised people to "avoid all protests and demonstrations as they may turn violent".

Television pictures

The Northern Ireland Tourist Board said the vast majority of visitors see Northern Ireland as a "safe and secure destination."

They added: "Those who come here enjoy our rich heritage and stunning scenery and they see for themselves a new and optimistic destination. This is by far the experience of the majority of our visitors."

Meanwhile, NI Tourism Minister Arlene Foster said she would be raising the matter with the Foreign Office in London.

"According to its website, the travel advice from the Australian government's department of foreign affairs and trade has been revised and reissued, but the overall level of the security advice has not changed," she said.

"Similar travel advice about personal safety and potential terrorist activity is given in relation to the United Kingdom as a whole, along with other countries like Sweden and Spain."

BBC journalist Phil Mercer, who works in Australia, said the warning had been reissued because of an "increase in civil unrest and political tension in Northern Ireland".

He said the Australian government's travel advisories have been matched by the US government urging its citizens to be alert to their surroundings and the chance of sporadic violence in Northern Ireland and the New Zealand government warning its citizens about travelling here.

Mr Mercer said Australians had been warned that incidents of sectarian violence and dissident activity in Northern Ireland had increased during 2009 and 2010 and were urged "to take extreme caution".

"The sectarian violence in Belfast in the last few months has made headline news here in Australia, principally because the television pictures that have been broadcast into Australian homes have been extremely graphic," he added.

"The peace process in NI has been very carefully followed here, there are many people with proud Celtic heritages, so that side of thing is very well covered too.

"People have family members who live in the UK so of course they will take a great deal of interest in what's happening."

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