Obama would review necessity of US special envoy to North

Wed, Aug 27, 2008, 01:00

BARACK OBAMA could abolish the post of US special envoy to Northern Ireland if he becomes president as he responds to the Taoiseach's call for a review of the relationship between Ireland and the US.

"Barack Obama understands that US attention and support will be required to solidify the peace and that will require our close attention and support," Mr Obama's campaign said in a statement on Ireland.

"But he also recognises that the crisis period for Northern Ireland has passed, and that the people of Northern Ireland are now in charge of their own destiny.

"He will consult with the Taoiseach, the British prime minister, and party leaders in Northern Ireland to determine whether a special US envoy for Northern Ireland continues to be necessary or a senior administration official, serving as point person for Northern Ireland, would be most effective."

Former US president Bill Clinton created the position of US special envoy to the North and president George Bush has continued to appoint envoys, most recently Paula Dobriansky.

Mr Obama's campaign said he would "personally engage on Irish issues whenever necessary" and would continue the tradition of inviting the Taoiseach to the White House for St Patrick's Day.

He would seek, however, to change the relationship between the two countries to reflect the reality of Irish economic success and political stability in the North.

Irish Voice publisher Niall O'Dowd, who supported Mrs Clinton in the Democratic primaries, said the statement was unclear but warned that any weakening of US input in the North would be "completely unacceptable" to Irish-Americans.

"A special envoy continues to be vital and necessary," he said. "Wholehearted American support and involvement will also be vital in resolving the upcoming issues of policing and devolution."

Mr Obama's great-great-great grandfather, Falmouth Kearney, emigrated to the US in 1850 from Moneygall, Co Offaly and the campaign said that Mr Obama would visit Ireland as president.

Ministers Mary Hanafin and Noel Dempsey, Opposition leaders Enda Kenny and Eamonn Gilmore, former president Mary Robinson and former taoiseach John Bruton will join Kenyan politicians for lunch in Denver today to celebrate Mr Obama's ancestry in both countries.