A bipartisan group of US Congressmen and women have written to the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to appeal to him to appoint a special envoy to Northern Ireland.

The group of 32 argue that the role of the US in Northern Ireland during the peace process was "indispensable in helping to end the longest standing political dispute in the history of the western world".

Secretary Tillerson has previously indicated his intention to abolish the role of US Special Envoys abroad as the Trump Administration focuses on a more American-focused foreign policy.

The politicians argue that it is "imperative" that the United States have a representative in Northern Ireland who "remains engaged" with "the five main political parties, and the Irish and British governments, to encourage fresh talks and help break the deadlock" in resuming the devolved Government.

They said Brexit is "of equal concern," given the "implications it could have on the stability of the peace process".

They say they believe any attempt to re-establish a hard border in Ireland would be "a mistake."

They write that "a return to the days of checkpoints, visas or custom patrols along the 320-mile border would be a great step backwards."

In the letter, they say that the current issues are the same as those which previous envoys "were able to effectively address".

They said that securing a special envoy to Northern Ireland, outside of the ambassadors to the UK and to the Republic of Ireland "has been a long-standing priority for the Irish-American community, and those interested in peace worldwide for good reason."

They urge Secretary Tillerson to reconsider his position to appoint someone "of the highest calibre and ability".

The letter is signed by the following 32 Congresspeople, comprising members from both the Republican and Democratic parties: Richard Neal, Joe Crowley, Peter King, Tom O'Halleran, Patrick Meehan, Michael Capuana, Gerald Connolly, James McGovern, Peter Welch, William Keating, Joseph Kennedy III, Brian Higgins, Sean Patrick Maloney, Frank Pallone Jr, Brendan Boyle, Stephen Lynch, John Conyers Jr, Tom Suozzi, Seth Moulton, Bill Pascrell Jr, Tim Murphy, Eliot Engel, Katherine Clark, Mike Doyle, John Larson, Albio Sires, Paul Tonko, Kathleen Rice, Joe Courtney, Daniel Kildee, John Lewis and Josh Gottheimer.