Photograph: Charles Krupa/AP
Joe Kennedy III, the 42-year-old scion of one of America’s most famous political families, has agreed to serve as special envoy to Northern Ireland for economic affairs, the US State Department announced on Monday.
The former Massachusetts congressman and grandson of US Attorney General Robert F Kennedy replaces Mick Mulvaney, a former White House chief of staff under Donald Trump, who resigned from his post last year.
Related: Edward Markey defeats Joe Kennedy in Massachusetts Democratic primary
“In this capacity, he will focus on promoting economic development and investment opportunities in Northern Ireland for the benefit of all communities as well as strengthening people-to-people ties between the United States and Northern Ireland.” , said US Secretary of State Antony. Blinken said in a statement.
“His role builds on the United States’ long-standing commitment to supporting peace, prosperity and stability in Northern Ireland.”
Kennedy’s appointment comes at a time of high tensions between Washington and London over the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol which dictates post-Brexit trade regulations in the British province, and it comes ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday agreement next year which aimed to end nearly 30 years of political violence in Northern Ireland known as The Troubles.
kennedy called his appointment “an incredible honour” and said he looked forward to helping Joe Biden’s White House “reaffirm America’s commitment to Northern Ireland and promote economic prosperity and opportunity for all its inhabitants”.
Kennedy graduated from Stanford University before working with the US Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic. He earned a law degree from Harvard Law School, where he studied under current US Senator Elizabeth Warren.
He became a member of the US Congress in 2012 and in 2018 was selected to rebut Trump’s State of the Union address – an outing that gave Republicans an easy grade when he appeared with copious amounts of lip balm.
In a later TV appearance, he joked that he “decided to go a little light on the ChapStick this morning…which is probably a smart move”.
Biden has pushed for a deal between London and Brussels on trade to be reached before the anniversary of Good Friday. While the appointment is part of a trade mandate, posting to the region in various forms has been in place since Senator George Mitchell was appointed US Special Envoy for Northern Ireland by President Bill Clinton. to help negotiate the Good Friday Pact.
US Ambassador to Ireland Claire Cronintweeted after Kennedy’s new role was announced on Monday that he was “smart, hardworking and the perfect person for the job.”
Kennedy has not held political office since last year. In 2019, he unsuccessfully challenged Democratic Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey in what was described as an intra-party fight that exposed divisions on the American political left.
Kennedy, who described the contest as a ‘fight of our lives,’ took issue with a sitting senator who enjoys support from the party’s progressive wing but largely failed to articulate a compelling reason for his candidacy other than his political lineage. in the state.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Kennedy was “truly an amazing person” but ultimately did not change Markey’s support. Kennedy’s loss marked the first time a member of his family had lost a statewide election.
His appointment as envoy to Northern Ireland makes him the third member of the Kennedy family to hold a diplomatic post under Biden.
Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of former President John F Kennedy, is Biden’s ambassador to Australia. Victoria Kennedy, the widow of the late Senator Ted Kennedy, is Ambassador to Austria.
Given his Irish American family lineage, Kennedy’s nomination has strong political overtones despite his economic orientation.
Former Massachusetts Democratic Party chairman Philip Johnston told the Boston Globe that Kennedy’s selection underscores the importance of Northern Ireland to the Biden administration.
“The Kennedy family has been involved in Ireland forever and there is no better collaborator and partner than Joe Kennedy,” said Johnston. “He’s a perfect choice for this role.”