Ex-US envoy to North calls on government to push for Border status quo

Gary Hart asks US Senate to ‘make clear’ to UK, EU, Belfast Agreement must be protected

Former US special envoy to Northern Ireland Gary Hart has become the latest senior figure to raise concerns about the impact of Brexit on the Belfast Agreement.

In a letter to the Senate foreign relations committee, Mr Hart, who held the position between 2013 and 2017, expressed concern about the possible restoration of a hard border on the island of Ireland.

"With the current complicated debate in the United Kingdom over Great Britain's proposed withdrawal from the European Union, there is great concern over the possibility of the restoration of the so-called 'hard border' between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland," he wrote in a letter to the chair of the committee, Republican senator James Risch and ranking member Bob Menendez. "Virtually all knowledgeable observers believe such a policy has the distinct possibility of reigniting sectarian conflict and violence and thus abrogating the central purpose of the Good Friday [Belfast] Agreement.

He called on the committee to “make clear to the government of the United Kingdom and European Union officials the absolute necessity of protecting the Good Friday Agreement by maintaining the status quo on that border”.


Mr Hart, who was appointed by former secretary of state John Kerry, was the last person to hold the position that was also held by senator George Mitchell and Richard Haass.

Mr Hart, a former US senator was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988.

The issuance of the letter came after members of the ad hoc committee to protect the Good Friday Agreement – an informal group of senior Irish-Americans established this year amid concerns about the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland – met senior representatives from the British embassy in Washington.

There has been an increased interest in Northern Ireland and the possible impact of a hard Brexit on the peace process in Washington as the Brexit stalemate continues.

Mr Hart's intervention comes ahead of this week's key European Council in Brussels.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent