U.S. Economic Envoy to Northern Ireland, Declan Kelly, has stepped down after almost two years on the job. His resignation was announced by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who praised the Tipperary native’s work warmly.
Kelly, who has been widely praised for the significant impact he has made during his time in office, is expected to continue as an informal advisor to Secretary Clinton on issues related to Northern Ireland and Irish affairs generally.
Clinton stated; "During his time as envoy, Declan has helped our friends in the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly, Invest NI, and the business community make Northern Ireland one of the best per capita attractors of investment in the world."
Mrs Clinton added: "Nearly two years ago, when I asked Declan to serve, I challenged him to use his considerable talents and entrepreneurial drive to help Northern Ireland grow and sustain the benefits of peace. Within hours of his appointment, Declan was en route to Belfast. He found eager and able partners not only there, but throughout the region. This collective effort has opened up new and exciting opportunities for the people of Northern Ireland to share a more prosperous future."
Mrs Clinton said: "The United States will continue to work with Northern Ireland to expand the opportunities Declan has fought so hard for, and I know he will remain a passionate advocate for the people of Northern Ireland.
"It is with appreciation and admiration for a job well done that I accept the resignation today of US economic envoy to Northern Ireland Declan Kelly. I thank him and wish him and his family the very best in the future."
It is also understood that Kelly has indicated he intends to continue to maintain a personal interest and role in Northern Ireland in a number of areas, including the US-Northern Ireland Mentorship Program which he created in partnership with the American Ireland Fund. The program has been widely supported by more than two dozen leading American companies placing the best graduates from Northern Ireland into management training roles in the US.
During his time in office Kelly visited Northern Ireland multiple times and created two advisory boards on both sides of the Atlantic dedicated to helping promote trade and investment into the region. He developed a close working relationship and friendship with both Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness and Minister for Investment Arlene Foster which enabled him to win the trust of the Northern Ireland administration soon after his appointment.
He traveled frequently with the Northern Ireland politicians throughout the United States to promote investment into the region and played a key behind the scenes role supporting Clinton in a number of key moments in Northern Ireland during the past two years, including the historic agreement reached between the parties to devolve policing and justice powers to the the Northern Ireland Assembly.
At two critical points during the negotiations to conclude the deal Kelly played a key role, persuading Robinson and McGuinness to come to New York to attend a special session on Northern Ireland hosted personally by President Clinton.
The event brought into sharp focus the importance for Northern Ireland of maintaining its attention on building its local economy at all costs. In the final days of the negotiations on the deal on policing and justice when it looked as if a deal might not happen, Kelly went public in Northern Ireland to warn the local politicians of the dire economic consequences that would inevitably face the region if they didn't conclude an agreement.
Kelly also organized the U.S. – NI Economic Conference which was hosted by Secretary of State Clinton in Washington last October. The event was widely recognized as the most successful of its kind ever undertaken to promote investment in Northern Ireland.
The Conference brought together the CEOs and top executives of over 30 major U.S. corporations from throughout the US, including many of the biggest names in the world. It was estimated that more than a trillion dollars worth of market capitalization was in attendance.
Kelly and his team were also heavily involved in working as part of the bid team that brought the UK City of Culture title to Derry/Londonderry. He participated in the final bid presentations in Liverpool with Martin McGuinness and the other members of the bid team, and he visited Derry several times in advance to prepare for the bid. It is expected he will continue to be supportive of the efforts to implement the City of Culture program in a personal capacity after he leaves office.
In his role as Envoy he worked closely with Invest Northern Ireland and spoke on multiple occasions throughout the US of the compelling reasons for companies to invest in the region. Several thousand new jobs were created during the period, including more than 1500 from US companies such as Citibank, NYSE Euronext, Dow Chemical, Terex, Seagate, and GE Energy. He also worked to advance Secretary Clinton's mission of working on economic initiatives to advance the causes of the hard to reach communities in Northern Ireland.
Shortly after appointing Kelly in September of 2009 Secretary Clinton made an historic visit to Northern Ireland including an historic address to the Northern Ireland Assembly. Her husband, President Clinton, accepted an invitation from Kelly to visit the region at the end of last year, meeting with business leaders from throughout the region and delivering a major economic address at the University of Ulster.
In one of his most recent visits to the region Kelly delivered a keynote address to several hundred people attending a Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce event in Belfast. He warned that the region was at a critical tipping point economically and had the potential to make great advances if the private sector took the initiative to invest in Northern Ireland's young people and their future. The speech was widely regarded as a warning by the US Envoy that the current imbalance between public and private sector employment and investment in the region could not be allowed to continue if the region wanted to remain competitive in the long term.
Kelly's intentions with regard to his next career move are not yet known, although it is likely that he will continue to remain active in Democratic politics in some capacity, even voluntarily. He sold his company, Financial Dynamics, to FTI Consulting in 2006 for approximately $340m and subsequently became a senior executive with that NYSE listed, $3.5 billion company for two years before being appointed by Secretary Clinton to the position of Envoy.
He is considered one of the most respected communications, investor and crisis management advisors in the world, having advised the Chairmen and CEO's of several Fortune 500 companies over the past decade or more.