Trevor Ringland is an inspired choice as an envoy for Northern Ireland in the US

News Letter editorial of Monday June 7 2021:

Monday, 7th June 2021, 7:00 am
News Letter editorial

The appointment of Trevor Ringland as an envoy to represent Northern Ireland in the US is inspired.

Mr Ringland is a lawyer, a reconciliation activist, and former political candidate and a one-time Ireland rugby international.

He is also, like the veterans commissioner Danny Kinahan, a natural diplomat who will now represent an important cause that badly needs a champion.

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After all, successive UK governments have allowed a range of organisations and voices and activists to undermine NI, the UK state and its forces, and even to use UK money to do so.

Mr Ringland will, in his personality and credentials, even before his advocacy, present a challenge to an Irish American establishment that includes rabidly anti British folk.

The UK government is normally timid in its defence of NI, while Irish officials present a view of British history, of Brexit and of the legacy of the Troubles that is hard to distinguish from that of Sinn Fein.

The creation of a US envoy for Northern Ireland was itself a surprise, It could thus easily have led to the appointment of someone who was so neutral in outlook that they ended up agreeing with Irish Americans that NI was a contested entity. That would have been typical of an NIO that is marking, but not celebrating, the centenary of our wonderful country.

Mr Ringland, for all his diplomacy, is not like that.

He has, on these pages, been one of the most scathing critics of the pro IRA direction of travel on legacy. Today on page 8 he says: “There’s no day my [policeman] father went out to kill anybody or shoot anybody. In fact, he’d go out to do the exact opposite. We can give a perspective on that.”

This is an obvious truth yet London has been so quiet on legacy, and unionism so defeatist on it, that it is almost surreal to hear anyone in a position of influence actually say it.

But Michelle O’Neill’s reaction to the appointment of Mr Ringland merely underlines how problematic it is that a party that does not want NI to exist wields a veto here.

A US envoy is a big advance but there is much more to do.

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