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Trevor Ringland appointment as first envoy to US deepens NI political crisis

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Trevor Ringland's deep background as a Tory and Ulster Unionist indicates that his appointment as special envoy was primarily based on strong political considerations

The appointment of former rugby union player, Trevor Ringland, as the UK’s first special envoy to the United States on Northern Ireland has poured fuel on the British-controlled territory’s political fires.

On announcing the appointment, Northern Ireland Secretary, Brandon Lewis, claimed the move was aimed at “strengthening ties between the two nations”.

As special envoy, Ringland, who is a solicitor by training, is expected to engage with US firms and investors with an interest in Northern Ireland to promote the long-term economic development of the British-controlled territory.

But predictably the appointment has polarized political opinion in Northern Ireland not least because Ringland is a former co-chairman of Northern Ireland Conservatives as well as former vice-chairman of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP).

Not surprisingly, the unionist community has strongly welcomed Ringland’s appointment with the leader of the UUP, Doug Beattie, claiming the creation of the special envoy role will provide “fantastic opportunities”.  

"Trevor [Ringland] has a unique understanding of relationships across communities and business in Northern Ireland", Beattie said.

"He is a strong advocate for the union and a unionism that is all-encompassing and reaches out across the divide”, the UUP leader added.  

However, Northern Ireland’s deputy First Minister, and the Vice President of the Republican group Sinn Féin, Michelle O’Neill, criticized the appointment as “arrogant and disrespectful”.

Lambasting Lewis’ decision, O’Neill said the Northern Ireland Executive’s “permanent diplomatic mission” in Washington DC “has proven effective and we do not need interference from the Tories in how we engage with the US Administration, Congress, or the Irish-American community”.  

For his part, Ringland has tried to stay above the political dispute by describing his appointment – which was made without consultation with the NI Executive – as “for the benefit of all people of Northern Ireland”.  



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