Keeping A Skibbereen Eagle Eye

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney meeting with U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan at Shannon Airport. Via Twitter

By Ray O'Hanlon

Waiting for Godot was one thing. Waiting for an envoy is quite something else.

If nothing else, a U.S. Special Envoy to the Northern Ireland peace and political process would be delivering a lot more lines than Beckett penned.

Given the process, the lines would be pretty much endless.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was confining herself to just a few lines Wednesday when she was asked about the envoy, as yet an idea without a face and name to match.

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White House press conferences these days are busy affairs, so any moment for an Irish question is a standout. The Irish Times and Irish national broadcaster RTE both have correspondents in Washington, D.C.

And they were both on their beat at Wednesday's press gathering.

Suzanne Breen of the Irish Times, clearly aware of Psaki's full plate, opened with "just a quick question."

There is no such thing as a literal quick question. But describing it as such is an acknowledgement, a signal of appreciation for actually getting the question in.

So..."and just a quick second question, and we're now more than four months into the presidency and very few Ambassador positions have been named. When should we expect something on that? And be just a bit more specifically, and more than two dozen members of Congress have written to the President calling for the appointment of a special envoy for Northern Ireland in light of recent uptick in tensions there. Is there any plan to appoint a special envoy to Northern Ireland?"

So two "quick" questions, and some info thrown in for good measure.

The response from Psaki, who is quick on her feet even when standing still and could clearly discern the more pressing quick question was to the point: "Well on the latter, we certainly continue to closely monitor issues in Northern Ireland. We welcome the provisions in both the trade deal between the United Kingdom and European Union, and Northern Ireland protocol that will help which will help protect the gains of the Belfast - Belfast Good Friday agreement. I don't have any personnel to announce for you. That would be the State Department that would make that recommendation in terms of ambassadors. I know I keep saying this but coming soon soon, but I don't have any update for all of you today."

RTE's report included the reminder that earlier this month, 25 members of the United States Congress signed a letter to President Biden calling on him to appoint a U.S. Special Envoy to Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile, three thousand miles to the northeast of the White House press room Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney was discussing Brexit and Northern Ireland with U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan during a meeting at Shannon Airport.

"Mr. Sullivan and Foreign Minister Coveney reaffirmed their commitment to protecting the gains of the Good Friday Agreement for all communities in Northern Ireland," according to a statement released following the meeting.

Coveney subsequently tweeted: "Had a very warm meeting with US National Security Adviser @JakeSullivan46 tonight in @ShannonAirport...covered #Brexit, NI, MEPP, #Syria, #Belarus, EU/US relations, Cyber, bilateral relations & of course his family in Skibbereen."

No mention of an envoy, though Coveney supports the idea.

Still, Skibbereen got mentioned. And it got the mention even without a quick question.