The British government has appointed former Irish international rugby player Trevor Ringland as the first US special envoy to Northern Ireland.
The announcement was made this morning by North Secretary Brandon Lewis.
Sinn Féin was highly critical of the move as the CEO of Stormont was not consulted or informed prior to the announcement.
Trevor Ringland, an attorney, made 31 green jersey appearances and toured New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions in 1983. He also played for Ulster and Balimina.
In a statement, Mr Lewis said the appointment “reflects the UK government’s enduring commitment to peace, prosperity and stability in Northern Ireland”.
Ulster Unionist Union leader Doug Petty welcomed the move, calling it “a fantastic site and opportunity for Northern Ireland”.
He said: “Trevor has a unique understanding of relationships across communities and businesses in Northern Ireland.
“He is a strong advocate for union and union that is inclusive and spans across the divide.”
But Sinn Fein’s Northern Ireland leader and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said Lewis’ decision to make such an appointment unilaterally without consulting the Stormont executive “demonstrates arrogance and disrespect for the Conservative Party”.
“This is not an acceptable way to do business,” she said in a statement.
The Executive has a permanent diplomatic mission based in Washington, D.C., which includes civilian personnel under the auspices of the Executive Office.
In his statement, the Minister for Northern Affairs said Ringland’s role would include working with US companies and investors to build on established links and support the long-term economic development of Northern Ireland.
Mr Ringland said it was an honor to take up the position on behalf of the UK Government.
“I very much look forward to the support of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in ensuring that the UK government’s policies on Northern Ireland well represent the American public and play a role in forging deeper political, social and economic ties between our two countries,” he added.
Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster said on Twitter that she wished Ringland “all the success in this new role”.
“I hope it can help some in the US better understand what people think of NI and our place within the UK,” she said.