The US government is considering appointing a special envoy to Northern Ireland.

Asked about the position last night, the US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, said the State Department was currently reviewing names with the White House.

He was speaking in Washington at a meeting with the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney 

The first US Special Envoy to Northern Ireland was Senator George Mitchell, who was appointed back in 1995.

He and his successors have played important roles in the peace process but the position has remained vacant under US President Donald Trump.

With the current political deadlock in Northern Ireland, there have been renewed calls for an appointment to be made.

After the meeting, the Tánaiste said he had discussed the appointment of a Northern Ireland envoy with the Secretary of State and he praised the role played by successive US administrations in supporting the peace process.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has welcomed the development.

In a statement, Ms McDonald said: "The appointment of an Envoy reflects the positive role that America has played in the peace process. This is particularly significant as the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement approaches."

She added that the challenges we face in Ireland at present "are very real."