Belfast Telegraph

US ready and willing to help you build a better future

By Conrad Tribble

In my home state of California, an iconic road runs along the spine of the Santa Monica mountains, offering panoramic views of downtown Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, and west towards the Pacific Ocean. Regarded as one of America's most scenic routes, Mulholland Drive has been immortalised in countless movies, songs, and books.

A lesser known fact about Mulholland Drive is that it is named after a pioneer who emigrated from Belfast in the 19th century. William Mulholland arrived in Los Angeles in 1877 as a 21-year-old, working as a ditch-cleaner for a water company. With no formal training, Mulholland pursued an interest in geology and engineering by educating himself at his local library. Eventually, Mulholland would preside over the creation of the Los Angeles aqueduct - an ambitious 233-mile water system that helped propel the city into the international metropolis that it is today.

Mulholland's determination epitomises the profound role that people from this region have played in the growth of the United States. His legacy also underpins the debt of gratitude that we Americans owe to the many early pioneers and emigrants from these shores.

Our shared history is the foundation for our deep and enduring friendship with the people of Northern Ireland. In recent years, our sustained support for this region's political progress has reinforced that friendship.

In the wake of the Belfast Agreement, extensive, mutually-beneficial transatlantic ties have blossomed. Our economic relations create jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. The United States is Northern Ireland's largest foreign investor, accounting for around one-third of foreign direct investment. Some of Northern Ireland's leading firms have opened facilities in the US, and in the last few years this region substantially increased its exports to America.

Prosperity and peace are closely intertwined. Northern Ireland has been able to fulfil much of its economic potential because community representatives made the choice to negotiate, and to create the space for citizens' voices. The Stormont and Fresh Start Agreements preserved and improved devolved governance.

But more remains to be done.

Countering residual paramilitary groups will help consolidate peace. Depoliticising cultural traditions will help erode sectarian divisions. Standing up for the already agreed institutions to address the region's conflicted past will help society to focus on the future. It will also allow the courts and police to concentrate on current challenges.

Over the course of the peace process, successive United States administrations have encouraged all parties to work together to build a better, shared future. We will continue to do so as a steadfast honest broker.

I recently visited Belfast for the second time in five months and encouraged political parties to stay focused on the needs of all the region's citizens.

We hope to see a timely resumption of stable, devolved governance after the upcoming election.

On St Patrick's Day, March 17, 1925, William Mulholland attended the dedication of the eponymous dam which he designed.

Mulholland Dam created the Hollywood Reservoir, a landmark I pass by often when I visit home. It reminds me that America's reservoir of goodwill toward Northern Ireland remains as strong as ever.

I am also confident that the US will stay positively engaged in this region.

I am hopeful that Northern Ireland's leaders will find a way to work together to build a better, shared future for all.

  • Conrad Tribble is deputy assistant secretary of the US Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs

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