The Biden administration named former Rep. Joe Kennedy III as a special envoy to Northern Ireland on Monday, turning to a member of a storied Irish American political dynasty to deal with post-Brexit economic tensions.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Kennedy’s appointment as economic affairs envoy to Northern Ireland. Kennedy “will be instrumental to ensuring deeper U.S. support for economic growth in Northern Ireland to benefit everyone,” Blinken tweeted.
Kennedy, 42, is a former congressman who lost a 2020 Democratic primary race against Massachusetts’s incumbent Sen. Ed Markey. Kennedy is the grandson of Robert Kennedy, who served as U.S. attorney general and senator and was the brother of President John F. Kennedy.
Kennedy’s assignment as special envoy, focusing on the economy, is narrower than that of former special envoy for Northern Ireland Mick Mulvaney. An appointee of President Donald Trump, Mulvaney quit following the Jan. 6, 2021 storming of the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters, and the post has remained vacant.
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Britain’s exit from the European Union greatly complicated trade and economic matters for and through Northern Ireland. That’s because Northern Ireland shares a border with the Republic of Ireland, which remains in the EU.
U.S. diplomats have worked to soothe relations between the United Kingdom and EU in the matter. That includes publicly urging the two not to let post-Brexit rows on matters related to Northern Ireland undermine their alliance in a greater global crisis, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In a statement, Blinken made clear other diplomats besides Kennedy would deal with resolving the underlying EU-United Kingdom disputes. “U.S. diplomats in Europe and Washington will continue to engage with political leaders” on those matters, Blinken wrote.