Rooney gets formal nod, King was askedBy Susan Falvella Garraty
June 17, 2009
Congressman Peter King was approached by the White House with an offer to be U.S. ambassador to Ireland. But the veteran Long Island congressman turned the idea down.
The man who looks set to be the next U.S. representative in Dublin, Pittsburgh Steelers owner and co-founder of the American Ireland Fund, Dan Rooney, is, meanwhile, this week one step closer to securing the keys to the ambassador's residence in Dublin's Phoenix Park.
Last week, President Barack Obama officially nominated Rooney whose confirmation will now be overseen by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee prior to the full Senate's vote. No opposition is expected for the nomination.
According to a U.S. State Department spokesperson, Rooney's confirmation could be concluded in the next few weeks in time for him to spend the 4th of July in Dublin. Rooney and his family have long spent summers in Ireland, but this would be a first ensconced in the ambassador's residence.
At the time the Echo went to press, a spokesman for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said the confirmation hearing had yet to be scheduled.
The Washington Post initially reported that President Obama had also considered reaching out across the aisle to Rep. King for his representative in Dublin. The paper said that King had "demurred" when asked by the administration to consider the posting.
King played a pivotal role in encouraging the Good Friday accord and worked well with the Clinton administration during its shepherding of the Northern Ireland peace process.
Democrats would have been politically pleased to have had the opportunity to ship King overseas as ambassador rather than face him in the upcoming U.S. Senate race for the New York seat vacated by now Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. King has not actually confirmed he is running but has stated he is considering a run.
There still is, meanwhile, the opportunity for another appointment for someone with Irish diplomatic aspirations.
During the presidential campaign, surrogates for Barack Obama promised that if elected president there would be a continuation of appointing a U.S. envoy to Northern Ireland. And since then there have been reports that their might actually be two north envoys in the hopper, one political and the other economic
One of those surrogates and former special envoy to the North, George Mitchell, made his first trip to Damascus, Syria as the Obama administration's Middle East peace envoy. Dennis Ross and Richard Holbrooke have been busy as special envoys to Iran and Afghanistan respectively, but the Obama White House has not yet put forward anyone to safeguard the success built in Belfast.
The White House and State Department had no comment on any upcoming appointment of a North envoy.
This story appeared in the issue of June 17-23, 2009