President Joe Biden is expected to name former congressman Joe Kennedy III as his special envoy to Northern Ireland for economic affairs, according to two people familiar with the plans, installing a member of one of the United States’ most famous political families to the post at a critical moment for the region.
The role has been vacant since Mick Mulvaney, also a former congressman and White House chief of staff, left the post at the end of the Trump administration.
Biden is naming the former Massachusetts lawmaker at a moment of Brexit-related tension in Northern Ireland, months ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday agreement which ended decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.
The British government and the European Union have clashed over the Northern Ireland protocol, which dictates cross-border trade regulations between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.
Biden has been an active follower of the discussions and has pressed London and Brussels to come to an agreement that would not threaten the hard-fought peace in Northern Ireland. He has pressed the matter with the last three British Prime Ministers, including the current leader Rishi Sunak, arguing an agreement should be reached by the anniversary of the Good Friday agreement in April.
The role of US special envoy to Northern Ireland has been in place for decades, since Sen. George Mitchell was installed by President Bill Clinton and helped broker the Good Friday agreement.
Kennedy is expected to focus primarily on economic matters, not political ones, although Northern Ireland has been without a fully functioning government for months.
He will be the third member of the Kennedy family serving in a diplomatic post under Biden. Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of former President John F. Kennedy, is Biden’s ambassador to Australia, and Victoria Kennedy, the widow of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, is currently ambassador to Austria.