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March 17 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama used St. Patrick’s Day to announce the appointment of Dan Rooney, owner and chairman of the Super Bowl-winning Pittsburgh Steelers, as the new U.S. ambassador to Ireland.
“Dan Rooney is an unwavering supporter of Irish peace, culture and education,” Obama said today in making the announcement. Rooney’s presence in the post “will ensure America’s continued close and unique partnership with Ireland in the years ahead.”
Rooney, 76, endorsed Obama in April, before the Pennsylvania primary that was won by Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, now U.S. secretary of state.
“True sports fans know that you support your team even when they are the underdogs,” Rooney wrote at the time. “Barack Obama is the underdog here but it is with great pride that I join his team.”
He is a co-founder of the American Ireland Fund, which has raised more than $300 million for peace and education programs in Ireland, the White House said.
Rooney is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and is the author of what is known as the National Football League’s Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching positions.
Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen met with Obama today at the White House, in what has become a St. Patrick’s Day tradition.
Clinton met yesterday with Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin, and is conducting a round of talks with leaders of Northern Ireland today, starting with Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams. She will also hold meetings with Secretary of State Shaun Woodward, First Minister Peter Robinson and his deputy, Martin McGuinness.
The discussions will focus on “how we’re going to continue to support the devolution of power and authority and the peace and prosperity on the island of Ireland,” Clinton said at the State Department before her meeting with Adams.
Two British soldiers and a policeman were killed in Northern Ireland this month in attacks claimed by dissident Irish republican groups.
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