Businesses now ready to invest more in Northern Ireland, says Joe Kennedy III

US special envoy praises restoration of the Stormont Assembly as ‘hugely positive’ moment

US special envoy to Northern Ireland for economic affairs Joe Kennedy III has described the restoration of the Stormont Assembly as a “hugely positive” moment.

Mr Kennedy said political stability is “critically important” to US firms seeking to invest hundreds of millions of dollars.

However, he stated that there was a willingness on the part of American firms to invest in Northern Ireland anyway based on his experiences that occurred following a business delegation he led in October.

That includes a $20 million (€18 million) investment in Coca-Cola in a bottling facility in DUP leader Jeffery Donaldson’s constituency. Among those on the trip was New York State comptroller Tom DiNapoli who controls a $250 billion (€225 billion) pension fund and has announced an investment of up to $50 million (€45 million) in Northern Ireland following the trip.


Mr Kennedy added that Northern Ireland is not the only place that has suffered from a lack of political stability. The US House of Representatives of which he is a member did not have a speaker for nearly a month “and nobody said don’t invest in the United States”.

He praised the resilience of the people in the North in the face of several closures of Stormont over the years. “They have been able to build a resilience through those political challenges. People still need to eat and they still need a doctor and they still need to advance and work together.”

Perceptions of Northern Ireland were still coloured in the United States by the Troubles he told guests at a fireside chat with the US ambassador to Ireland Claire Cronin. The event marked 100 years of US-Irish diplomatic relations.

“When Americans think of Northern Ireland they think of what they read and saw on television 23 years ago. They don’t see what we saw in October,” he said.

Stormont will return: analysis from Belfast, London and Dublin

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Mr Kennedy recalled that Belfast is now the safest city in the UK and Northern Ireland the happiest region in the union. Northern Ireland is the number one destination in the world for cybersecurity with “extraordinary universities”.

It is a place where 230 US businesses have invested in new cutting-edge studio sets to launch the next generation of films and video games.

Belfast had an advantage too in being more affordable than cities like Dublin, London, Boston or New York, he added. A decent salary will go further in Belfast than in many other cities.

“If you can find a way to make childcare affordable, you suddenly create a competitive edge on other places.”

Mr Kennedy said he was a big supporter of integrated education and a recent UN study should the importance of integrated childcare in Northern Ireland in creating integrated peace and stability.

Integrated education would “take down the last vestiges of the calcification of differences”.

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Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times