Northern Ireland news

US political delegation 'will make British government understand what's at stake'

Dr Francis Costello

A US political delegation visiting Ireland and Britain will "focus attention" on the absence of Stormont, an Irish-American businessman has said.

Dr Francis Costello, who worked for Democratic politician Joseph Patrick Kennedy II, said the delegation is "significant" and has been taken "in the very best of faith".

"The timing is important and deliberate," he said.

He added: "There is no better time to come. It will focus attention... It will hopefully make the British government understand what's at stake here."

The assembly cannot sit because the DUP is blocking the election of a speaker as part of its protest against the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Leading senator Richard Neal is part of the congressional delegation travelling around Europe in a bid to calm tensions over the protocol.

The nine-strong delegation visited west Kerry yesterday. Mr Neal's maternal family is from Ventry on the Dingle peninsula.

Dr Costello said the delegation, which includes Democrats and Republicans, should be seen as part of the US's long-standing commitment to supporting the peace process.

"It is tied to a long-standing and genuine interest in all the communities on this island and with particular sensitivity to the situation in Northern Ireland," he said.

"I think they fervently hope that the British government would take a better account of things."

He added: "Richard Neal has been stressing, before the time that Brexit was even embedded, of the danger to the Northern Ireland economy and of growth being affected, not by the protocol but by a lack of investment caused by uncertainty in political institutions, by Brexit itself... and the social instability that comes about as a result of that."

He said the British government "needs to take stock of" the political risks that were taken for peace and not to "twist anything for the ends of this government for staying in power".

"This transcends a political party, a single government," he said.

"It's about protecting what we've gained and making sure we've gone forward."

Dr Costello said the British government is keen for a US trade agreement but "it's not going to come by putting a spanner in the works of Northern Ireland".

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