US Economic Envoy Declan Kelly was hailed as “friend of Derry” after announcing his resignation this week.
The Tipperary born businessman was instrumental in Derry’s successful City of Culture 2013 bid and a key player in raising the city’s profile internationally. He was also a major driver in attracting several key investments by US firms across the North.
The New York-based journalist turned public relations practitioner - who was appointed by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in September 2009 - stepped down to pursue his business interests. Announcing his resignation, the multi-millionaire father-of-two described his role as the “most worthwhile” job he had ever done.
Alarm bells sounded in Derry yesterday when it was revealed that the US Government has no immediate plans to replace Mr Kelly.
Paying tribute Mr Kelly’s valuable contribution to Derry, Sinead McLaughlin, Chief Executive Officer of city’s chamber of commerce, said his resignation was “very sad and unfortunate” but highlighted the need for his work to continue.
“The big question now is whether he will be replaced - we hope he will be. His office has played a key role in delivering investment and jobs to Northern Ireland and we were looking forward to more of this coming to the North West.
“I hope that the Northern Ireland Executive will use its influence with the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to persuade her to make a new appointment of a replacement of the same calibre and with the same influence as Declan.
“Whatever happens with corporation tax rates, we still need a strong US Economic Envoy who can open doors to corporate America.”
Mayor Colr Colum Eastwood said that the people of the city owed Mr Kelly “thanks and appreciation”. “He made a significant contribution to the city’s profile and potential during his years in office and was a key influencer in the city’s winning case for UK City of Culture 2013. He will always remain a friend of the city and I wish him every success for the future.”
Martin Bradley, Chairman of Culture Company 2013, said Declan Kelly was “instrumental” in building a strong foundation for the City of Culture. “Declan Kelly’s partnership with the city made a significant contribution to our success with City of Culture 2013.
As an essential member of the team his encouragement and partnerships helped us make important international links and connections. We are committed to building on these local and international partnerships to deliver a legacy for City of Culture 2013. On behalf of Culture Company 2013, I would like to thank Declan for his continued friendship and support for the city.”
Aideen McGinley, CEO of Ilex, said Mr Kelly’s role was “strategically important” to the city.
“His own experience and skills, together with access to marketing advice and information from his staff, were a vital contribution to the creation of a successful [City of Culture] bid.
“We very much appreciate the interest that Declan showed during his time as US Economic Envoy which was seminal in moving the city forward with its plans and aspirations. Declan was a friend to the city and we look forward to continuing that friendship,” she said.
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness also branded Mr Kelly as a “great friend of the peace process” who had played a key role in helping the Stormont Executive attract increased inward investment.
Foyle MP Mark Durkan said Mr Kelly lent his “considerable and distinctive talents” to the economic interests of the North.
He added: “In his engagement with Derry he proved to be both a sound advisor and a strong advocate. His interest was real, his insight valuable and his influence has been productive.
“He impressed everyone and inspired a lot with the working manner and commitment that will now be missed, just as it has been deeply appreciated.”