Joe Kennedy (Dominican Republic) | New Special Envoy to Northern Ireland


Joseph Kennedy (Dominican Republic 04-06

Joe Kennedy III is set to be named as US special envoy to Northern Ireland, BBC News understands. He will be will be the first person in the role in almost two years.

The US government will make the announcement as early as Monday, a source familiar with the appointment told the BBC.

It is understood the role will see Mr Kennedy, who is the grandson of assassinated presidential candidate Robert Kennedy, focus on economic development and closer ties, and not political issues such as Brexit or the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Before attending Harvard Law School, Kennedy served in the Peace Corps (Dominican Republic 2004-06).

He then became a district attorney before setting his eyes on the US House of Representatives.

He was first elected to congress in 2013 and served four terms as the representative for Massachusetts’s 4th district.

In 2020, Kennedy decided to forego a re-election, and to challenge veteran senator Ed Markey for his seat.

He lost his primary race, making him the first member of the Kennedy dynasty to be defeated in a congressional vote in the state.

Kennedy’s appointment comes during a fractious political era in Northern Ireland.

There has been no power-sharing government since February, when the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) walked out of the Northern Ireland Executive in protest over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Unionists argue the post-Brexit trading arrangement undermines Northern Ireland’s position in the UK as it keeps the nation aligned with some EU trade rules to ensure goods can move freely across the Irish land border.

Since May’s assembly election, when Sinn Féin won the largest number of seats for the first time, there have been five attempts to restore the executive.

But these have all failed as the DUP has refused to vote for a new speaker, a position that must receive support from unionists and nationalists before any other business can be heard.

The DUP argues it has a mandate from voters not to return to the executive until the protocol is “significantly changed”.

Meanwhile, the UK and the EU continue to hold talks over the protocol and, while a resolution does not appear imminent, both sides agree a window of opportunity exists for a deal.

While it is understood that Joe Kennedy’s role will not focus on political issues, leaders in the US have previously made their stance on the protocol clear.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi last year warned there would be “absolutely no chance” of a US-UK trade agreement if Brexit undermines the Good Friday Agreement.

In September, President Joe Biden repeated that call, saying that dismantling the protocol would “not create a conducive environment” for trade talks.


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