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President Barack Obama and former Ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney

Failure to appoint U.S. ambassador called a ‘slap in the face to Irish America’

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President Barack Obama and former Ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney

Leading Irish Americans have again slammed the US administration’s failure to appoint a new ambassador to Ireland.

One prominent Irish American, civil rights attorney Brian O’Dwyer, has described the lack of a US envoy as a ‘slap in the face’ for Irish America and Ireland.

O’Dwyer is also head of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center in Queens.

Concern has also been expressed in senior Irish government circles IrishCentral has learned.

The position has been vacant since Dan Rooney resigned last December, the longest period without an ambassador since 1927.

O’Dwyer and Irish American Democrats founder Stella O’Leary have expressed their concern at the lack of an appointment to the Sunday Times and IrishCentral.

The influential Sunday Times paper reports on their belief that the vacancy suggests an ‘indifference’ to Ireland in Washington’s corridors of power.

They also say that not having a Washington representative in Dublin is detrimental to Ireland and Irish-Americans with no appointment likely before next year.

O’Leary has urged Washington had to make the appointment a ‘priority’ after two candidates reportedly withdrew from the race after they were nominated.

O’Dwyer told the Sunday Times that Ireland is one of the most sought-after posts on the US diplomatic circuit.

He said: “There’s any number of people who want this job, many of them well qualified. I have no idea why this is happening. It’s a disgrace.

“It’s a slap in the face to the millions of Irish-Americans that supported this administration.”

The American embassy in Dublin told the paper they are waiting for the Obama administration to name an ambassador and said the length of time between naming a candidate and the ambassador taking up the position can vary.

A spokesman said: “When the candidate is named, usually the White House sends out a press release. They then have to go through a Senate confirmation hearing.

“When they’ll be granted that hearing can vary. It depends on the backlog going through the Senate, how long the hearing will last, and when the vote will be taken. This is before the host government provides formal agreement approval.”

Rooney took up his role in Dublin in March 2009, two months after his predecessor Thomas C Foley left office.

“It’s very puzzling that we do not have an ambassador," O’Leary, a powerful Irish American power broker in Washington, has stated. “There is no shortage of qualified Irish Americans for the job."

“There has been no communication, no reason given for the delay and this has been to the severe disadvantage of Irish America and Ireland,” she said.

“On issues such as business, trade, immigration reform it is very important that an ambassador is in place," she said. “I strongly believe this needs to be a priority for the State Department and the administration.”

America has ambassadors in close to 200 countries but Ireland, along with Belarus, Bolivia, Comoros, Lesotho and Romania, is one of the few vacant ones, according to a State Department website.

It is believed that former Missouri Congressman Russ Carnaghan, 55, was the first choice of the administration but that he withdrew. Carnaghan had lost a primary election in 2012 when he was redistricted.

Many names have been floated, most notably Washington attorney Mark Tuohey and his brother-in-law Bill Daley, who recently pulled out of a governor's race in Illinois. However, inter party tensions between some Obama backers and the Daley family are said to have caused major problems.

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