Northern Ireland

US investors have ‘eyes opened’ to economic opportunities in Northern Ireland

Members of the US trade delegation with US special envoy Joe Kennedy III outside Queen’s University Belfast following a four day visit to Northern Ireland (Claudia Savage/PA)
Members of the US trade delegation with US special envoy Joe Kennedy III outside Queen’s University Belfast following a four day visit to Northern Ireland (Claudia Savage/PA) Members of the US trade delegation with US special envoy Joe Kennedy III outside Queen’s University Belfast following a four day visit to Northern Ireland (Claudia Savage/PA)

Joseph Kennedy III has said US investors had their “eyes opened” during their visit to Northern Ireland.

The US special envoy spoke to reporters ahead of a dinner in the Lanyon Building at Queen’s University Belfast, where a number of potential US investors completed their four-day trip to Northern Ireland.

The delegation included New York state comptroller Thomas P DiNapoli, president and chief financial officer of The Coca-Cola Company John Murphy, chief executive of Alteryx Mark Anderson and Marcie Frost, the chief executive of CalPERS.

The trade delegation was led by US special envoy Joseph Kennedy III (Claudia Savage/PA).

Also on Thursday Mr Kennedy met Stormont politicians at Titanic Belfast before going on to Queen’s where he officially opened the new Students’ Union building.

Earlier in the week, the delegation visited the new Belfast campus of Ulster University and Parliament Buildings Stormont.

It was Mr Kennedy’s fourth visit to Northern Ireland but he has yet to see a functioning government.

Northern Ireland has been without a devolved assembly for over a year due to the DUP’s boycott of powersharing institutions in protest against post-Brexit trading arrangements.

Mr Kennedy said he was hopeful that Stormont would be back during his next trip to Northern Ireland but that he would not “put a timeline” on it.

“I hope so, I would have given you the same answer when I was here in September, would have given the same answer when I was here in July, same when I was here in June and same time as I was here in April,” he said.

Mr Kennedy speaks outside Queen’s University Belfast following a four-day visit to Northern Ireland (Claudia Savage/PA)

“I hope I don’t have to give you that same answer the next time I’m back, I think we probably share that hope.

“I had the honour of serving in the United States Congress and I, at times, was getting advice from people from far away about issues that they didn’t necessarily – were as informed about as they perhaps should have been before they started prescribing that advice.

“I’m not going to make that same mistake.”

Mr Kennedy also stated there was a “sense of optimism” from Northern Ireland politicians.

“This has gone on a while, and so there’s a sense of not wanting to get their hopes up too far to have it dashed again but I think there is an optimism going forward and I hope they’re right, and I think people want to get there,” he said.

Despite the lack of political stability, Mr Kennedy said the investors were “excited” about economic opportunities in Northern Ireland.

Mr DiNapoli announced earlier this week that the New York State pension fund is to invest up to 50 million dollars (£41 million) in the region.

Mr Kennedy speaks to reporters outside Queen’s University Belfast (Claudia Savage/PA)

“I think people are excited, excited enough to put 50 million dollars, reinvest 50 million dollars into Northern Ireland, excited enough to continue to expand their operations,” Mr Kennedy said.

“They are thrilled about the investments that they made 30 years ago into Northern Ireland and have watched those ranks expand.

“And they’re excited about the prospects that they continue to see on repeated visits back to their home and see that grow and the connections between places like Silicon Valley and Belfast.”

He added: “I would say people have been excited about this trip, they’ve had their eyes opened by this trip.”