President Barack Obama and Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny hold up a bowl of shamrocks during a St Patrick's Day reception at the White House in 2013.
Photo by: AP
Where is our U.S. Ambassador? Failure to fill position angers Irish
Much confusion in Irish and Irish American circles as no Obama announcement expected
By Niall O’Dowd
Washington sources say it is now unlikely that a new ambassador to Ireland will be announced during the St. Patrick’s period this year despite widespread expectation that would be the case.
Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny is set for a White House visit on Friday March 14th and it had been widely expected a new ambassador would be announced then. However, that does not seem to be the situation.
It is the longest gap in filling the post since 1927 and has lead to widespread criticism of the administration.
The position has been vacant since former Ambassador Dan Rooney stepped down in December 2012.
The unprecedented delay in filling the job is frustrating Irish government figures who frankly admit they are baffled by the problems filling the position.
“I have stopped asking about it “said one Dublin official recently. “We have no idea why the post is not filled.”
Government officials point to the issue of immigration, trade and the controversy surrounding tax policies on American multinationals as areas where a new ambassador is vital.
Irish American leaders are frustrated also calling it a major problem for the Obama administration.
“There are 40 million Irish Americans, surely there is someone who can fill this job, “said key Democratic Party Irish activist and civil rights lawyer Brian O’Dwyer.
O’Dwyer had previously described it as "a slap in the face" for Irish America and for Ireland.
"There's any number of people who want this job, many of them well qualified. I have no idea why this is happening," he said.
"It's a disgrace. It's a slap in the face to the millions of Irish-Americans that supported this administration."
Stella O'Leary, the influential founder of Irish American Democrats, said:
"There is no shortage of qualified Irish Americans for the job.
"There has been no communication, no reason for the delay and this has been to the severe disadvantage of Ireland America and of Ireland.
"On issues such as business, trade and immigration reform, it's important that an ambassador is in place. I strongly believe this needs to be a priority for the State Department and the administration."
The Irish Times had stated that the failure to fill the position this St. Patrick’s Day would be “unprecedented.”
Washington correspondent Simon Carswell wrote “It was highly unusual for a US ambassador to Ireland not to be appointed by or on St Patrick’s Day. (2013)
It would be unprecedented for an ambassador not to be named for a second consecutive St Patrick’s Day.
A St. Louis businessman Tom Carnahan, 44, from a well-known political family and a major Obama fundraiser had been the expected choice. Previously his brother Russ, a former congressman had also been touted.
Tom Carnahan had close ties with Ireland having sold his successful wind energy company to an Irish concern and being a frequent visitor there.
However, questions had been raised about stimulus money and tax credits his company received from the Obama administration.
No other candidate’s names have been circulating in media reports.