US names Kennedy scion to N.Ireland role

Former US congressman Joe Kennedy III, seen in 2020 while campaigning unsuccessfully for the Senate, has been named an envoy on Northern Ireland

President Joe Biden’s administration on Monday named Joe Kennedy III, a scion of the Irish American political dynasty, as an envoy on Northern Ireland.

Kennedy was given a title of special envoy to Northern Ireland for economic affairs with a focus on promoting investment and development.

The United States previously had a broader position of special envoy for Northern Ireland that started with former senator George Mitchell, who helped negotiate the landmark 1998 Good Friday agreement that largely ended decades of violence in the British-administered region.

Blinken said Kennedy will look to promote development “to the benefit of all communities” in Northern Ireland, which has been historically divided between Protestants and Catholics.

“His role builds on the long-standing US commitment to supporting peace, prosperity and stability in Northern Ireland and the peace dividends of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement,” Blinken said in a statement.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said that other US diplomats will work on political efforts on Northern Ireland, where tensions have grown since Britain left the European Union, although the two sides reached a protocol to avoid rebuilding a hard border with EU member Ireland.

“He won’t be involved in political issues, including ongoing efforts to resolve differences over the Northern Ireland Protocol and to restore devolved institutions in Northern Ireland,” Price told reporters.

“That is something that, of course, we’re deeply focused on,” Price said of the State Department. 

Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin voiced hope for progress on Northern Ireland ahead of next year’s 25th anniversary of the agreement.

Biden’s appointment of Kennedy “is a clear demonstration of the president’s direct engagement with Ireland as well as the enduring US commitment to supporting peace in, and building the prosperity of, Northern Ireland,” Martin said in a statement.

Kennedy, the grandson of assassinated senator Robert F. Kennedy, served in the House of Representatives until unsuccessfully seeking the Democratic nomination for a Senate seat in 2020.

His great-uncle John F. Kennedy was the first Catholic president and a hero of Biden, the second Catholic president, who often speaks fondly of his own Irish heritage.

The Kennedys remain active in Democratic politics with the late president’s daughter Caroline Kennedy serving under Biden as ambassador to Australia.

The new envoy’s great-grandfather, Joseph Kennedy, was ambassador to London at the start of World War II when he faced wide accusations of anti-British sentiment.