Businessman Francis Costello reveals insights into thinking of new US envoy Joseph P Kennedy III
THERE are several overlapping reasons behind US President Joseph Biden’s decision to appoint former Congressman Joseph P Kennedy III as US Special Economic Envoy to Northern Ireland.
Beyond their shared Irish heritage and strong commitment to honouring the Good Friday Agreement, there are other clues that offer an insight into the core values that also drive the 46th President of the United States.
While Biden and Kennedy are from different generations, there is a timeless thread uniting them as activists committed to uplifting ordinary people. Each has shown a passion for ensuring that economic development and fair investment transcends race, gender, ethnicity and national boundaries.
It is not by accident that on his first day in the Oval Office, President Biden placed sculptures of his political hero Robert Francis Kennedy, along with those of civil rights heroine Rosa Parks and a bust of Cesar Chavez, founder of the United Farm Workers union.
In asking Joseph P Kennedy III to serve as US envoy, Biden did so based on the younger man’s track record. As vice president, Biden saw how Kennedy, who entered Congress in 2013, was committed to building a fairer society not unlike himself decades before as a young city councilman in Delaware shortly after the death of RFK.
In a meeting in Boston recently with Joseph Kennedy, it was also clear why he accepted President Biden’s request. It is a mission in which he will work carefully in applying his own experience to promote greater economic engagement between the US and Northern Ireland to help the region to maximise the unique position it occupies within both European Single Market and the UK economy to help its citizens move forward together.
In so doing, it will see him engaging over time with companies and trade associations as well as civil society drawing upon his own work with the Citizens Energy Corporation, the non profit company founded by his father former Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II, while also remaining true to the pivotal role played by his father in engaging directly with Shorts Bombardier Aerospace of Belfast on the fair employment front 35 years ago.
For President Biden and Joseph P Kennedy III, there is an actual commitment to the importance of fairness, equity, access to opportunity and support for entrepreneurship for all reflecting in the widest sense of what economic development entails.
Joe Biden and Joe Kennedy III are trying to give meaning to the late Robert F Kennedy’s call that we understand what are the true measures of economic success.
In a speech in 1968, he spoke from the heart about what should matter most in gauging societal achievement: "The gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile."
Fifty five years later, RFK’s message still rings out. Each of us who are in a position in Northern Ireland must try to make a difference on the ground in building a sense of commonwealth if politics, government, entrepreneurship, and investment and outside interventions are to really matter.
Dr Francis Costello served as chief of staff to former Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II