According to officials here, the administration is keen to split the envoy role into one focusing on economics and another to concentrate on miaintain the U.S. role in the peace process.
Secretary of State Hilary Clinton is the final arbiter before any final decision, with the White House deferring to Clinton because of her background on the range of issues facing the North.
The leading candidate for the political position is Mark Tuohey, a well known and respected Washington lawyer who is also the chairman of Co-operation Ireland.
In a brief interview with the Echo, Tuohey said if offered the position, he would be “honored to accept.”
Professionally, Tuohey served as an advisor to the Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland, and he has served as a legal advisor to the office of the attorney general of Ireland on various matters.
Tuohey’s two grown sons, Mark and Sean, have continued the family’s commitment to Ireland with the founding of Playing for Peace, a basketball program that draws participants across ethnic and sectarians lines in Northern Ireland and other areas around the globe that are dealing with sectarian and racial violence.
Calls to the National Security Council at the White House, and the U.S. State Department to query whether a final decision has been made regarding the envoy positions were not returned by press time.
Others also being considered for the position include Anne-Marie Slaughter, director of policy planning at the State Department, former Congressman Bruce Morrison, and former Clinton White House national security advisor, Nancy Soderberg.
Ambassador Soderberg, now teaching at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, would clearly not have a learning curve to overcome as she already knows most of the current political players in Northern Ireland from her years managing the issue in the Clinton White House, most especially in the run up to the Good Friday accord.
For the economic/business envoy, software innovator John Cullinane from Boston, Massachusetts is being seriously considered. Jim Lyons from Denver, Colorado is also in the mix. If chosen, it would be a reprise of the same role that Lyons performed for President Bill Clinton from 1996-2001.