NI politicians regret the axing of US envoy
Plans to remove the American special envoy from Northern Ireland amid cuts to staff by the Trump administration have been met with disappointment by local politicians.
The move was announced by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who plans to 'retire' at least half of his country's envoys.
Former Democrat Senator Gary Hart was the last to fill the position of envoy to Northern Ireland as part of his role in the Obama administration, but it has now been confirmed that the job will no longer exist.
Removal of the envoy was justified on the basis that Northern Ireland now enjoys peace and stability through the Assembly.
The US State Department's Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs will now take responsibility for all relevant matters.
DUP MP Gavin Robinson called the news disappointing, stressing that diplomatic links with America had been hugely beneficial.
"We should all want to see the strongest possible linkages between Northern Ireland and the United States," he added. "It would be very disappointing were the envoy post to Northern Ireland to be retired. Having such a contact with Washington, regardless of the administration in place, is always good for Northern Ireland."
Alliance MLA Stephen Farry agreed it would be a blow but insisted good relations between Northern Ireland and the US would be maintained.
He said: "Successive envoys have played a constructive role assisting different aspects of the peace process here.
"While Alliance's preference is that the position is retained, in the absence of that, we will continue to have ongoing relationships with other senior officials in the State Department and the Consulate General in Belfast. That engagement will continue regardless."
The US State Department in Washington confirmed the position would be scrapped.
A spokesman said: "Regarding the personal representative for Northern Ireland issues, that position will be retired.
The first envoy here ,George Mitchell, played a key role in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. He was followed by Richard Haass.