Biden to appoint Joe Kennedy as special envoy to Northern Ireland

Kennedy will be the first to hold the seat since Mick Mulvaney left the position in 2021 following his tenure as chief of staff in Donald Trump's White House.

In this Sept. 1, 2020 file photo, U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III speaks outside his campaign headquarters in Watertown, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

President Joe Biden plans to appoint former congressman Joe Kennedy — Robert F. Kennedy’s grandson — as the next U.S. special envoy to Northern Ireland.

A U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss an appointment that hasn’t been formally announced, confirmed the news and said the appointment will be announced in the coming days.

Kennedy will be the first to hold the seat since Mick Mulvaney left the position in 2021 following his tenure as chief of staff in Donald Trump’s White House.

The U.S. official said Kennedy’s position is expected to focus specifically on Northern Ireland’s economic development and not on ongoing negotiations around the Northern Ireland Protocol. The 2019 protocol was established to maintain the peace deal struck under the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, which was meant to maintain an open, peaceful border between Northern Ireland and Ireland — a peace that has been threatened by Britain’s exit from the European Union.


Kennedy, 42, was once seen as the political heir to one of the nation’s most famous Irish American dynasties. He left the U.S. House after eight years to pursue a Massachusetts Senate seat in 2020 but lost the race to incumbent Sen. Edward J. Markey (D). Since that campaign, Kennedy has worked diligently with the Groundwork Project, an organization he founded that helps communities across the country “build sustainable political infrastructure, engage and educate voters, and build power for the underrepresented and disenfranchised,” per the group’s mission statement.

He is not the only Kennedy to be named to an ambassadorship in the Biden administration. Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of former president John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, is ambassador to Australia, and Victoria Reggie Kennedy, the widow of former senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), is ambassador to Austria.

The president has long expressed his admiration and noted his bond with the Kennedy family. His ties to the family highlight the notable echo between the nation’s first Irish Catholic president (John F. Kennedy, the youngest president) and its second (Biden, the oldest).

Biden also was close to Ted Kennedy, John’s brother, with whom he served in the Senate and shared a long friendship and partnership. Ted Kennedy not only showed Biden the ropes — regularly trekking to Biden’s office in Dirksen Senate Office Building — but embodied for Biden the way the Senate should run.


The younger Kennedy’s appointment comes at a fraught time for Northern Ireland, which has been running without a fully functioning government since February, when the Democratic Unionist Party forced it to collapse over protests about the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The protocol was drawn as part of the E.U.-U.K. Withdrawal Agreement and allows the free movement of people and goods between Northern Ireland, which remains part of the United Kingdom, and Ireland, a member of the E.U.


This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on