Former Irish rugby player Trevor Ringland has been appointed Special Envoy for Northern Ireland to the United States.
The lawyer and community activist will be the first special envoy to promote Northern Ireland across the US administration, Congress and within the Irish-American community.
As a special envoy, Ringland will also be tasked with working with US companies and investors interested in Northern Ireland.
Mr Ringland said he was honored to take on the role.
“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 represented the American public and played my part in forging deeper political, social and economic ties between our two countries,” he said.
Northern Ireland Minister Brandon Lewis said: “I am pleased that Trevor has accepted my invitation to take up this position to represent the United Kingdom Government in Northern Ireland, and to act in support of its best interests in the United States.
“This is an exciting new date and recognizes Northern Ireland’s unique relationship with the United States and its people. I look forward to working with Trevor to harness all the opportunities that lie ahead.”
Deputy Prime Minister Michelle O’Neill called the decision to appoint a “unilateral” US special envoy “arrogant and disrespectful.”
“Brandon Lewis’ decision to make such a unilateral appointment is directly related to North Korea’s interests and priorities without consulting the democratically delegated executive branch of Conservative arrogance and disrespect,” she said.
“This is not an acceptable way of doing business.
The Executive Branch has a permanent diplomatic mission based in Washington, D.C. It is composed of civilian personnel under the auspices of the Executive Office.
They have proven effective and we do not need Conservative interference in how we engage with the US administration, Congress or the Irish-American community.
“I view this announcement as yet another attempt by this Conservative government to undermine the transition of power, our locally elected ministers and our institutions of government.” This, in addition to their announcement by the Whitehall administration to set up an office in Belfast, is frankly redundant.
I intend to raise these concerns with the British Foreign Secretary at the earliest opportunity. There will be no power grab or the undermining of the transfer of power.”
In turn, UUP leader Doug Petty said creating the role is “great news and offers great opportunities”.
Mr Petty said: “The Government’s appointment of Mr Ringland in this role is a very positive step forward and I hope everyone will give him their support as he begins his work.”
Trevor has a unique understanding of relationships across communities and businesses in Northern Ireland.
“He is a strong advocate for union and union unity that includes everyone and spans across the divide.
“Everyone should be able to stand behind him and support him in his work as he promotes Northern Ireland and its people across the United States.
“Northern Ireland has so many links with the United States – socially, historically, culturally and economically – and I am delighted that we will now take advantage of even more opportunities that these links provide.
“We need more engagement, not less.” -PA