Congress members urge Tillerson not to abolish post of NI envoy

Posted By: September 20, 2017

Letter with 25 signatures calls on Trump administration to reconsider its position

Suzanne Lynch. Irish Times. Dublin. Monday, September 18, 2017

More than two dozen members of the US Congress have written to the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, urging him to reverse the decision to abolish the post of special envoy to Northern Ireland.

The intervention by the bipartisan group follows a decision by the U.S. State Department to abolish the post as part of a broader shake-up of the United States’ diplomatic service.

The letter, signed by at least 25 members of Congress, calls on the Trump administration to reconsider its position, noting that “the nearly 40 million Americans of Irish descent have begun to speak out on this issue.”

It states that “by any standard, the signing of the Good Friday agreement in 1998 represents one of America’s most successful foreign policy accomplishments in recent memory”.

Brexit threat

The letter, which has been signed by at least five Republicans as well as Democratic members of Congress, also highlights the threat Brexit poses to the Belfast Agreement.

It is understood efforts are underway for a cross-party group of U.S. politicians to visit Northern Ireland as early as next month as the issue of Brexit and its implications for Northern Ireland begins to gain ground in the U.S.

The first U.S. special envoy to Northern Ireland, Senator George Mitchell, was appointed in 1995. Successive appointees, including Richard Haass and Gary Hart, have played a central role in maintaining the peace process.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said he would like to see an envoy to Northern Ireland maintained.