US to retain Northern Ireland special envoy position

President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

President Trump has agreed to appoint a US special envoy to Northern Ireland – reversing a previous decision to “retire” the position.

The assurance has been given by Congressman Richard Neal, who said he urged the president not to axe the post at a time when the political institutions at Stormont are suspended, and to “help prevent further political instability” at such a “critical time”.

“I also believe we can make an important contribution to the Brexit debate and its implications on the island of Ireland.

“At this critical time, I am pleased that President Trump promised not to eliminate the special envoy post,” Congressman Neal said.

Senator George Mitchell occupied the position – officially known as the US Government’s Personal Representative for Northern Ireland Issues – during negotiations in the run-up to the 1998 Belfast Agreement.

Announcing the decision to retire the post earlier this month, a US Department of State spokesman said responsibility for Northern Ireland affairs would be “assigned to the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs”.

Congressman Neal added: “I told President Trump that eliminating the position of special envoy would send a message around the world that the United States is no longer engaged in the region.”