Joe Kennedy III, the US Special Envoy to Northern Ireland for Economic Affairs, is in Belfast this week for the Northern Ireland Investment Summit.

The Summit kicked off on Wednesday despite Northern Ireland having not had a functioning government ever since the DUP pulled out of power-sharing in February 2022 in protest of the Northern Ireland Protocol and later the Windsor Framework.

Kennedy, who is set to lead a US trade delegation to Northern Ireland later this month, was asked on Wednesday if he was "disappointed" to be back in Northern Ireland with still no Executive in place.

“I’m thrilled to be back once again," Kennedy said. "I’m here because the American public, the American President, and I, all of us believe in Northern Ireland. 

“We believe in its future, we are committed to its future.

“And we think there’s an extraordinary story to be able to tell, and that is part of my job, that’s why President Biden asked me to serve in this role and why we’re so excited to not only participate in this conference today but be able to bring some additional American companies that are excited about the opportunities in Northern Ireland.

“And look, when it comes to politics, Northern Ireland’s not the only place that has challenging politics these days.

“We talked to some of my friends, my former colleagues in the House of Representatives in American government at the moment, about some of the challenges we’re facing.

“Politics is hard. We have to work through it. 

“The people of Northern Ireland - I think this place here is ripe for investment, ripe for potential.

“Obviously that process will go as it will. We’ll support it, we hope things work out, but there’s a great story to tell here regardless.”

Opening Wednesday's event, Northern Ireland Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris told delegates that Northern Ireland has "enormous economic potential and is full of the talent and expertise required by the sectors of the future to succeed and to thrive."

He too acknowledged the ongoing absence of a functioning government in Northern Ireland: "I had hoped by now that we would have an Executive back up and running, for potential investors traveling here today to be met by ministers from Northern Ireland and discuss their ideas; sadly, this has proved not to be the case.

"But my team and I have worked intensively with the DUP, and indeed all the main Northern Ireland political parties across the summer, and I'm genuinely hopeful that progress will be unlocked very, very soon.

"I know it will require courage on all sides to prioritize reconciliation and prosperity over division, but I know this can be done because it was done in spades 25 years ago to deliver the foundation of peace and prosperity here in Northern Ireland."

The invitation-only, two-day Summit was announced by UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during US President Joe Biden's visit to Northern Ireland earlier this year. It's being hosted by the UK Department for Business and Trade in partnership with the Northern Ireland Office and Invest Northern Ireland.

Around 200 investors from across the world including the US, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia Pacific are attending the Summit which, according to the Northern Ireland Office, "aims to turbocharge inward investment into Northern Ireland."

19 showcase companies from across Northern Ireland will also exhibit to global investors, including Derry-based Respiratory Analytics, Collins Aerospace in Kilkeel, and Ballymena-based Wrightbus.

Early on Wednesday, professional services firm EY announced 1,000 new jobs in Northern Ireland over the next five years, opening up new and exciting employment opportunities. Once in place, the jobs are expected to contribute at least £33 million in annual salaries to the Northern Ireland economy.

Great to meet the @EY_Ireland team the day they announced 1000 new jobs in Northern Ireland

— Joseph Kennedy III (@USEnvoyNI) September 13, 2023

The Northern Ireland Investment Summit began on Wednesday two days after the €1.1 billion cross-border PEACEPLUS fund was launched in Belfast, and the day after the controversial Northern Ireland Legacy Bill completed its passage through UK Parliament.