US President, Joe Biden, is facing increasing calls to appoint a Special Envoy for Northern Ireland.
Amid growing tension in the border region over the Northern Ireland Protocol and fractious internal party battles, Members of the United States Congress have sent a letter to President Biden, urging him to appoint an envoy to the region.
Twenty-five representatives from both the Republican and Democratic parties signed and sent a letter to the White House, declaring that the appointment of such an envoy would ‘directly encourage regional peace and stability’ on the island of Ireland.
In the signed letter sent to President Biden, the congressmen stated,
‘Peace and Stability in the region have recently been challenged by the cumulative effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, tensions related to Brexit as well as enduring local economic and social issues…we ask that you demonstrate America’s commitment to peace through diplomacy by appointing a President’s Special Envoy... this appointment would confirm our …staunch support for democracy and the rule of law.’
The push by the congressmen comes as President Biden is expected to appoint more ambassadors in the coming weeks.
Among some of the notable names to sign the letter were various Irish-American representatives, including Richard Neal, Brendan Boyle, Mary Gay Scanlon and Bill Keating who chairs the House Foreign Affairs sub-committee, which focuses on relations with Europe.
Congressman Keating, who is thought to have been the instigator of this initiative, claimed that a special envoy to Northern Ireland at this time is vital and that US involvement could prove very ‘useful’. ‘The uptick in violence in Northern Ireland has been a great concern,’ Keating said. ‘There are people that weren’t even born when the original agreement was signed but are getting caught up.’
Congressman Keating added that he believed the peace would have not prevailed in the past without the help of the US and that he and his fellow congressmen ‘want to make sure that the agreement, and the peace that was achieved against all odds, continues.’
Weighing in on the matter, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, confirmed that he would fully back such an appointment. Speaking at a virtual briefing for Irish citizens and the Irish-American community in New York, Minister Coveney said having a special envoy informing the White House on relations there would serve as a structured link between the Irish government and the White House and would be a ‘a very, very useful tool.’
Minister Coveney added, ‘Lots of things are changing in Northern Ireland and I think that changing landscape needs to be understood in Washington.’ The Minister’s comments come after reports of tensions brewing between the Irish government and the newly-appointed Democratic Unionist Party leader, Edmund Poots.
Mr Poots recently described his relationship with both the government and Coveney as “really bad’ and criticised the government over their handling of the Northern Ireland Protocol, warning that it could ‘starve’ the people of Northern Ireland.
However, when asked about these tensions, Minister Coveney maintained that, despite the tensions, the focus should be on working together, adding, ‘Northern Ireland works when the British and Irish governments work together.’
It is still unclear if a special envoy will be appointed to Northern Ireland in the coming weeks, as the Biden administration has said that no decision has been made yet, but they will ‘continue to closely monitor issues in Northern Ireland’.