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Trump 'planning U-turn' on role of Northern Ireland special envoy

By Suzanne Breen

An Irish-American politician has said President Donald Trump will fill the position of special envoy to Northern Ireland.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had last month announced he would eliminate many international special envoys.

However, Democratic Congressman Richie Neal has said he received assurances from the President and his Irish-American chief of staff James Kelly that the position would be filled.

The Congressman said he had asked the President to reconsider when he met him at the White House yesterday. He argued that concerns over the collapse of power-sharing at Stormont and Brexit made it vital for the US to have a special representative in Northern Ireland.

Mr Neal told the BBC: "I told President Trump that eliminating the position of special envoy would send a message around the world that the United States is no longer engaged in the region. As we approach the 20th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, America must continue to play a meaningful role in the peace process."

The Congressman later tweeted: "At this critical time, I am pleased that President Trump promised not to eliminate the Northern Ireland special envoy during our meeting."

The last envoy to Northern Ireland was former Democrat Senator Gary Hart. His appointment lapsed when Barack Obama left the White House, and the position has not been filled by Mr Trump.

The US State Department in Washington told the Belfast Telegraph last month that the Northern Ireland special envoy position "will be retired".

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