Northern Ireland representative to US Norman Houston dies in Belfast
Civil servant a ‘true diplomat’ at centre of discussions with US on northern politics
Norman Houston joined the civil service at the height of the Troubles. Photograph: Northern Ireland Bureau
Mr Houston died on Tuesday in Belfast. He was 62.
In a statement, the Northern Ireland Office said Mr Houston, who was awarded an OBE for his work in 2019, would be remembered as a “true diplomat who served Northern Ireland with distinction.”
“For over 15 years, Norman saw to it that Northern Ireland was at the centre of political and economic discussions in successive US administrations, bringing much-needed investment and opening many doors for our politicians and wider business leaders.”
Representatives from across the political divide in Northern Ireland paid tribute to Mr Houston, who retired as head of the Northern Ireland Bureau in Washington in late 2019.
First Minister Arlene Foster said she was “shocked and deeply saddened” to hear the news of his death.
“Norman was a consummate professional and a true ambassador for Northern Ireland. Throughout his time as Director of the Washington Bureau he made an enormous contribution to promoting Northern Ireland on a global stage,” she said.
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said that Mr Houston’s contribution to “developing our relationship with the United States is immeasurable.”
“He was an excellent diplomat who did an outstanding job of leading our Washington Bureau for more than a decade. He had an unforgettable presence and his name was known far and wide throughout the city and beyond.”
Ireland’s ambassador to the United States, Dan Mulhall, said he was “deeply saddened” by his death.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood recalled how Mr Houston had always been “extremely kind and helpful” during his visits to Washington, describing him as a “top-class public servant.”
Originally from Larne, Mr Houston joined the civil service in 1975, at the height of the Troubles. He served in Washington on two postings during his career.
“For many years, Norman ran the Northern Ireland Bureau with decorum, professionalism and civility. He was a superb ambassador for Northern Ireland and will be greatly missed by his friends on both sides of the Atlantic.”