Biden to pick Joe Kennedy as special envoy for Northern Ireland

Democrat represented Massachusetts in the US House of Representatives from 2013-2021

Former US representative Joe Kennedy at an event in Washington this month. AFP
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President Joe Biden plans to nominate former congressman Joseph Kennedy III as the State Department’s special envoy for Northern Ireland, two people familiar with the matter said, as the US looks to step up its involvement with the region.

Mr Kennedy, the grandson of former US senator Robert F Kennedy, will replace Mick Mulvaney, who left the position at the end of Donald Trump’s presidency in January 2021.

The announcement should come in the next several days, said the people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified.

Mr Kennedy’s appointment was first reported by Politico.

The US is looking to play a more active role in Northern Ireland as the region prepares to mark a quarter century since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

Mr Kennedy will focus on economic development in Northern Ireland and will not be involved in US efforts to broker a post-Brexit impasse between the UK and the European Union, one of the people said.

The Biden administration also wants to beat an unrelated deadline: Under a US law signed a year ago, most special envoys named after January 3, 2023, will require Senate approval, a process that can take months or even years.

The State Department and the White House declined to comment on Friday.

Mr Kennedy, a Democrat, represented Massachusetts in the House of Representatives from 2013-2021.

The dispute over the Northern Ireland Protocol — the part of the Brexit deal that keeps the region in the EU’s single market to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland — has long hampered relations between London and Brussels, even though both sides agreed to a trade deal in December 2020.

US diplomats in Europe and in Washington who have been engaging with all sides on the protocol will continue to do so.

Notable members of the Kennedy family — in pictures

Updated: December 16, 2022, 9:53 PM