About the Bureau
The Northern Ireland Bureau is part of the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, and the senior staff are Northern Irish Civil Servants.
The Director of the Bureau, Norman Houston, outlined the Bureau’s primary goal:
"Our primary goal is to promote Northern Ireland to the United States as a confident, capable and outwardly looking region. Many organizations and individuals in the United States have supported developments in Northern Ireland over the years and there is a very positive response to Northern Ireland. It is important to recognise that this relationship has changed and continues to evolve.”
The role of the Bureau is to:
- develop a positive profile of Northern Ireland among US policy-makers and opinion-formers by ensuring that the policies of the Northern Ireland Administration and its associated institutions are known and understood;
- monitor policy developments in the US, ensuring that Northern Ireland Ministers and Departments have up-to-date information, and are aware of opportunities for co-operation; and
- pursue areas of collaboration and partnership identified by the above exchanges, and encourage their development in ways that maximize the mutual benefits.
Day to Day
The day-to-day work of the office covers a range of activities:
Promoting the profile of Northern Ireland in the US
Northern Ireland, with 1.7 million citizens, is a relatively small region often seen as on the periphery of Europe. It does, however, have much to offer; not least in the way its people have striven to develop constitutional solutions to the deep-rooted problems of a divided community. The Bureau regularly organizes receptions where US officials have a chance to meet informally with people from Northern Ireland and discuss the realities of life there. The office is also committed to promoting high profile cultural events in Washington.
Developing understanding of US issues
The office provides a resource for Northern Ireland officials wishing to know more about the US and its policies. High priority policy issues, identified in conjunction with Departments, are regularly monitored and relevant Ministers and officials in Northern Ireland are kept informed of developments.
Providing support for Ministers during their visits
The office has been specifically designed to provide full facilities for Northern Ireland Ministers and officials visiting US institutions. It has state-of-the-art communications with Northern Ireland, a Ministerial suite and conference facilities. Ministers can use these facilities to prepare for meetings and discussions with officials from the US Administration, Capitol Hill and Institutions.