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Simon Coveney: Irish foreign minister evacuated from Belfast event over security alert

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By Euronews  with AFP
Ireland's Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, pictured during a press conference in July 2019.
Ireland's Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, pictured during a press conference in July 2019.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, File

Ireland's Foreign Minister Simon Coveney was evacuated from an event in Belfast on Friday due to a security concern.

Coveney had been delivering a speech at a peace process event in Northern Ireland when the alert was sounded.

Northern Ireland police had "declared a security incident" during the event, according to a spokesperson for the Irish Foreign Ministry.

"The minister and his team are safe, taken to a secure location and the [police] are doing their job," they added.

In a statement, authorities in Northern Ireland said they were dealing with "a security alert in the Crumlin Road area of north Belfast" on Friday morning.

Local media have reported that a van had been hijacked and the driver was forced at gunpoint to drive to the Houben Centre where Coveney was speaking. Motorists have been advised to avoid the area.

Coveney said on Twitter that he was "saddened and frustrated that someone has been attacked and victimised in this way

"My thoughts are with him [and] his family. My thanks to ⁦the Police Service of Northern Ireland," he added.

The incident came just days after the terror alert level in Northern Ireland was lowered from "severe" to "substantial" for the first time since 2010.

The UK's Northern Ireland Minister Brandon Lewis said he was being kept up to date on the incident and expressed "solidarity with Simon Coveney and all those impacted."