A senior member of the US Congress has predicted that American companies coming to Northern Ireland next month as part of a trade delegation will set up here because of the NI Protocol.

But Senator Chris Coons and Senator Chris Murphy also expressed deep concern that the DUP’s refusal to take part in power-sharing, which has paralysed the executive and assembly in Stormont, is deepening divisions and could lead to instability.

More than 200 delegates from the American Irish State Legislators Caucus visited Stormont and London last week to discuss a range of political issues, including safeguarding the Good Friday Agreement.

Senator Murphy and Senator Coons stressed that peace and justice in Northern Ireland is of paramount importance in maintaining the ‘Special Relationship’ between America and Britain.

The high-level bipartisan delegation from the Senate and House of Representatives also went to Dublin after London for talks with ministers, officials and members of civic society.

They said they would discuss Brexit, support the Windsor Framework, and point out that sizeable American commercial investment is coming to Northern Ireland if the peace deal is not jeopardised.

The US special envoy to Northern Ireland, Joe Kennedy III, is taking a delegation of US business leaders to Northern Ireland in October.

“Our hope is that the UK Government will also see this opportunity for what it is and prioritise and pay attention to the economic development potential in Northern Ireland. My guess is that there are going to be American companies who are going to be very interested in setting up headquarters and facilities in Northern Ireland because of the Protocol,” said Senator Coons.

Despite progress being made on contentious issues, major hurdles remain, say the senators.

They both point out that their constituencies in the US have large Irish-American communities with close connections to Ireland north and south who are concerned about events unfolding this side of the Atlantic.

“It is a source of great frustration that we don’t have a government in Stormont. We’re here to figure out how we can use whatever leverage we have as United States senators and congressmen to try to convince the DUP to get into government and to do what’s right for the people of Northern Ireland,” said Senator Murphy.

The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill proposed by Rishi Sunak’s government would end legal proceedings, including trials and inquests, for serious violence during the 30 years of The Troubles, offering a conditional amnesty for those accused of killing and maiming.

The impending legislation is opposed by civil rights groups, the Irish government and political parties in Northern Ireland, who all say it will deny justice to victims and their families. Parliament’s joint committee on human rights found the Bill as it stands risked widespread breach of human rights laws.

Senator Murphy said: “I’m certainly delivering a message on the very specific message of concern about the Legacy Bill. I continue to hear loud and clear from the people who have connections to those who still have claims and crimes that have lingered for decades that they want justice.

“They don’t want that path to justice shut down artificially by this legacy building. It’s important for me to be here on behalf of my constituents in the US who have ties to Northern Ireland to deliver a message of great concern.”

Senator Coons said: “We have listened to the concerns about this. All parties in Northern Ireland have opposed this Bill and the cutting off of any potential recovery it entails.

“In my state, Delaware, there’s been an Ulster Project that brings families from Northern Ireland to Delaware, and I too have heard concerns about cutting off any path towards resolving difficult or sensitive issues from the Troubles.”

Speaking about Northern Ireland and the EU, Senator Coons added: “In meetings I’ve held across the last three prime ministers, a consistent theme has been take Northern Ireland seriously, address the issues and challenges in terms of the EU, the impact of Brexit, and how to make sure that a hard border doesn’t re-emerge. There is a vital need to make sure that does not happen”.

The senators want to point out that the Windsor Framework provides the people of Northern Ireland access to the British and EU markets and the US can help in this running smoothly.

Senator Murphy said: “It gives them a very clear and unique connection to Britain but also gives them easier access to the European markets than the rest of Britain has. The United States can play a role in helping to make sure that Northern Ireland sees the benefit of this unique status; we can help sell that.”