New role in the USA for Larne diplomat

Norman Houston (centre) from Larne who is retiring as director of the Northern Ireland Bureau in Washington DC.
Norman Houston (centre) from Larne who is retiring as director of the Northern Ireland Bureau in Washington DC.

A Larne man who had the honour of meeting three US presidents is moving on to a new role in America.

Norman Houston OBE, retiring director of the Northern Ireland Bureau, is to head Co-operation Ireland North America from early 2020.

The Bureau is the diplomatic mission of the Northern Ireland Executive in the United States and Canada. It works to strengthen links between political, economic, educational, and cultural interests in the province and North America.

Reflecting on his service with the organisation, Norman said: “It’s been a very fulfilling twelve years in Washington, DC and it’s been an honour to be Northern Ireland’s diplomatic representative to the USA.

“When I joined the Northern Ireland Civil Service in 1975 my ambitions never extended beyond the dizzy heights of Parliament Buildings, I never dreamed of walking into the Oval Office to meet three presidents. Not a bad run for a wee guy from Craigy Hill bungalows.

“In the new year I’m moving on to a new position as the CEO of Co-operation Ireland North America. It will give me the opportunity to work with some amazing people in an organisation that boasts the President of Ireland and Her Majesty the Queen as its patrons. I’m very excited about it.”

One of the most memorable moments of his career was in 2007, as he previously stated: “I was in the White House Oval Office with President George W Bush, Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness, who had just been elected First and Deputy First Minister. The meeting was supposed to last 15 minutes and it went on for an hour.”

As colleagues gathered at an event in the US last week to mark Norman’s contribution, the Bureau posted on social media: “A bittersweet evening celebrating the end of one era and the beginning of another.

“Wishing Norman all the best, and looking forward to continuing the Bureau’s legacy with new director, Andrew Elliott.”