Northern Ireland news

US Congress committee urges President Joe Biden to appoint special envoy to the north

President Joe Biden has been urged to appoint a special envoy. Picture by AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

A US CONGRESS committee has urged President Joe Biden to appoint a special envoy to Northern Ireland.

The bipartisan sub-committee on Europe, Energy, the Environment, and Cyber has also called for an increase in funding for the International Fund for Ireland to assist "investments in community building and integration efforts"

In a letter to President Biden, they say an envoy should be appointed “in order to continue to support the peace process during this critical time".

The correspondence comes after the committee was briefed by Women's Coalition founding members Monica McWilliams and Jane Morrice, alongside former US special envoy to the north Mitchell Reiss.

It has also been reported that several Congress members were briefed earlier this week by Secretary of State Brandon Lewis and Brexit minister Lord Frost.

The US side is understood to have voiced concern about the British government's unilateral action on the protocol and plans to introduce a statute of limitations for Troubles offences.

The letter has been signed by 25 members of Congress, including prominent Irish-Americans Richard Neal, Brendan Boyle, Dan Kildee and Mary Gay Scanlon.

According to committee chair Bill Keating, all three contributors to last week's briefing by the former Women's Coalition members and Mr Reiss stressed the importance of appointing a special envoy to Northern Ireland, with the former envoy emphasising the potential for the US to build on its "previous track record of diplomatic success in the region".

The special envoy's post, which was most recently filled by the Trump administration's appointee Mick Mulvaney, has been left unfilled since President Biden entered the White House in January.

The intervention by the Congress committee comes as Mr Biden prepares to make a number of overseas appointments, including naming the next ambassador to Ireland.

The letter urges the president to appoint an envoy in order to "demonstrate America's commitment to peace through diplomacy".

"This appointment would confirm our commitment to our transatlantic partners and our staunch support for democracy, human rights, and the rule of law," it states.

"US efforts that provide critical support for initiatives to further integrated education and on other issues vital to cross-community reconciliation must continue to receive our support, such as our contributions to the International Fund for Ireland.”

The committee also call for the special envoy to "have a mandate to ensure women are included in every stage of the peace building process".

In March, the White House said it had yet to make any decisions on personnel and was initially concentrating on domestic appointments but stressed that the Biden administration would continue to remain very engaged in Northern Ireland.

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