Joe Kennedy III to serve as U.S. Special Envoy to Northern Ireland


The appointment comes as the UK and the EU spar over trade protocol in Northern Ireland.

Jessica Rinald / The Boston Globe

Former Massachusetts Congressman Joe Kennedy III will serve as the U.S. Special Envoy to Northern Ireland, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced Monday.

Kennedy, the 42-year-old scion of the Kennedy political dynasty, will be tasked with advancing economic development in Northern Ireland “as well as strengthening people-to-people ties between the United States and Northern Ireland,” Blinken said in a statement.

“Joe has dedicated his career to public service, including eight years in the U.S. House of Representatives, tenure as Massachusetts Assistant District Attorney, and service as a Peace Corps Volunteer,” the secretary said. “He will draw from his extensive experience to support economic growth in Northern Ireland and to deepen U.S. engagement with all communities.”

Kennedy steps into the role as the European Union and the United Kingdom spar over trade protocol at the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland border under Brexit.

The position was last held by former Trump White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who resigned in 2021.

In a tweet Monday, Kennedy called the appointment “an incredible honor.”

He wrote he is looking forward “to working with the Biden Admin to reaffirm US commitment to Northern Ireland and to promote economic prosperity and opportunity for all its people.”

Biden has said he wants the UK and EU to hammer out a trade agreement by April, which marks the the anniversary of the 1998 Good Friday agreement — the deal that secured peace and ended the decades of violence in Northern Ireland known as the “Troubles.”

There are signs a deal could come as soon as February, however, as talks between British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič in Brussels indicated last week.

Kennedy, a Newton Democrat, served as the representative for the Massachusetts Fourth Congressional District from 2013 through 2021. He chose not to seek re-election in 2020 and instead pursued an unsuccessful U.S. Senate primary campaign against incumbent Sen. Ed Markey.

Since then, Kennedy founded the Groundwork Project, a PAC dedicated to advancing progressive causes and candidates.

The grandson of former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, Kennedy is also the great nephew of the late Jean Kennedy Smith, the former U.S. ambassador to Ireland.

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