The new US Special Envoy to Northern Ireland has hailed the efforts of the UK and EU to strike the Windsor Framework deal as an “extraordinary achievement”.
Joe Kennedy III, who is a member of the Kennedy political dynasty, said his role would be to help leverage economic opportunities for the region.
President Joe Biden told Mr Kennedy he wanted him to focus on economic rather than political issues in Northern Ireland when he appointed him to the position in December.
The 42-year-old former Democratic congressman filled the position that had been vacant since January 2021, after the envoy under Donald Trump, Mick Mulvaney, stepped down from the post.
Mr Kennedy is the grandson of former US senator and attorney general Robert Kennedy and the grandnephew of former US president John F Kennedy.
In an address to a gala dinner held in Washington DC, Mr Kennedy called for a standing ovation to DCI John Caldwell, who remains in a critical condition in hospital after an attempt on his life.
He also offered his support to PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne, who was present at the event in the US capital, for the force’s attempted murder investigation.
In an interview with the PA news agency, Mr Kennedy said he understood that all stakeholders in Northern Ireland wanted to assess what the Windsor Framework on post Brexit trade meant for them.
“I think it’s an extraordinary achievement by the British government and the European Union to have had the stamina to continue to sit down at the table and come up with agreement,” he said.
“Then the next stage in that process is all stakeholders, not just elected officials, but everybody has to examine it and evaluate it to try to understand what the best thing for them, their families and Northern Ireland is, and I think they’re going through that process.”
The DUP, which is currently boycotting devolution at Stormont in protest at post-Brexit trading arrangements for Northern Ireland, is deliberating on whether to accept the Windsor Framework and return to powersharing.
Mr Kennedy met representatives from the main Stormont parties and Northern Ireland business representatives at a breakfast event in Washington DC this week.
“I’m incredibly honoured to serve in this position, serve the administration, but also serve the people in Northern Ireland,” he said.
“What the President has asked me to do is to try to leverage the power of the American government to continue the bet on the people of Northern Ireland that the United States has made now for decades.
“We believe in its people, we believe in their future and what you see by the appointment and the attention and the effort for engagement here is a belief that the future’s bright and anything we can do to help support efforts on the ground to improve conditions and build economic opportunities is what I hope to do.”
He described the breakfast meeting as “wonderful”.
“It was great to have so many people in the room, wonderful to have a chance to really have heads of all the parties, have a great cross section of leaders, elected officials, civil society leaders, business leaders there committed to doing what we can to, again, support the people of Northern Ireland in building economic opportunity,” he said.