Belfast Telegraph

Ex-US special envoy says scrapping Northern Ireland post is 'tragic' move

By Adrian Rutherford

Scrapping America's special envoy to Northern Ireland will save less than £40,000 a year, it has emerged.

The post will be retired following a review of the US government's overseas diplomatic operation.

It had an annual budget of $50,000 (£38,000).

Gary Hart, the last special envoy to Northern Ireland, condemned the proposal by the Trump administration as "a sad, even tragic, decision".

Washington has sent a special envoy to Northern Ireland for more than two decades.

However, Mr Hart's appointment lapsed when the Obama administration left power in January, and the position has not been filled by President Trump's team.

A spokesman from the State Department in Washington told the Belfast Telegraph: "Regarding the Personal Representative for Northern Ireland Issues - that position will be retired.

"The 1998 Good Friday Agreement has been implemented with a devolved national assembly in Belfast now in place.

"Legacy and future responsibilities will be assigned to the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR)."

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has proposed abolishing more than half of envoys. Key advisory roles on climate change and Syria will also go in the shake-up.

However, Mr Hart has criticised the Northern Ireland move, saying it comes at a critical time with the collapse of Stormont and uncertainty around Brexit.

Mr Hart said it "fits into a Trump pattern" and was "part of a much larger picture of disengagement internationally".

"This is a Secretary of State who seems to be making it up as he goes along," he told The Irish Times.

"If they look at the UK generally and Brexit, all they see is complications and they run away.

"I don't think they want to be engaged and if you get complexities like the border issue, the last thing that Tillerson wants to worry about is the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. It is not on his radar."

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