New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli speaking at the Aisling Awards in Belfast
By Anthony Neeson
Appeals to President Joe Biden to appoint a Special Envoy to Northern Ireland have been boosted with an endorsement of such an appointment by New York State Comptroller, Tom DiNapoli.
Like his predecessors in the comptroller's office, DiNapoli has been closely involved with efforts to boost the Northern Ireland economy by means of pension fund investment, and as the man who oversees his state's $194 billion pension fund, he wields enormous influence while being widely respected for his efforts to underpin the peace and political process with such job-creating investment.
As an investor in many companies with operations in the North, Comptroller DiNapoli — who won more votes in the last state-wide election than any other candidate — has visited Belfast often to voice support for the peace process, and for the MacBride Principles on Fair Employment.
In a letter to President Biden, the comptroller weighed in behind the envoy campaign, fronted by an online petition, which was initiated by the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Irish Echo following the president's inauguration.
Stated DiNapoli in his letter: "I am writing to ask you to appoint a talented diplomate to serve as US Special Envoy to Northern Ireland.
"I know you are well aware of the vital role played by Senator George Mitchell as Special Envoy in negotiating the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 and persuading the pasties to commit to it. American influence — including advancing the MacBride Principles, investing in economic development and supporting the resolution of conflicts — has been critical in building peace and prosperity over the last two decades."
In his letter, Comptroller DiNapoli warns that the political temperature in the North has been rising since Brexit.
"While Northern Ireland's progress has been impressive much remains precarious," he writes.
"Covid-19 and the UK's departure from the EU have increased tensions. At the same time, the working agreement governing the North's unique status after Brexit includes real opportunities as well as risks. An envoy who can promote constructive dialogue and who enjoys your confidence can be a tremendous force for good in the region."