Mystery shrouds North economic envoy job

The U.S. State Department is this week refusing to reveal whether there will be a new Northern Ireland economic envoy named to replace Declan Kelly.

Kelly, resigned his position earlier this month. A State Department spokeswoman refused to directly respond to the question of whether the Obama administration would appoint another envoy when asked by the Echo.

"So far, no replacement has been named for Declan Kelly," wrote the spokesperson in an email. But asked pointedly if there were to be any replacement at all, she said she had nothing to announce at this time.

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At the start of the year, Kelly seemed to lose patience with some business leaders at a presentation event by the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce. He castigated the crowd for relying too heavily on the public sector largesse. The Northern Ireland economy is heavily dependant on its public sector to provide jobs.

"If you miss this opportunity, you will never get it again. It will be a case of shame on you, and shame on us. The time for insular thinking in Northern Ireland is over. It has to end," said Kelly back in January.

A request for comment from Declan Kelly on whether there should be a successor for the position was not answered before deadline. The previous website associated with his office - which previously was open to anyone -, is now encrypted and requires a password.

Meanwhile, the ranking member of the Friends of Ireland caucus, Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) has come out strongly in support of the need to name a replacement.

"Since the United States has played an indispensable role in the search for peace and reconciliation in the north of Ireland, and that process is not yet complete, I urge President Obama to appoint a new envoy.

"We have to send a strong message to both the political leadership and the people on ground that we have not forgotten them," Neal told the Echo.