Outgoing US Ambassador Dan Rooney has claimed relations between America and Ireland have never been better – and he has urged both countries to continue their united efforts to beat the recession.

The Pittsburgh Steelers owner officially leaves office on Friday after three years in residence at Dublin’s Phoenix Park.

A co-founder of the American Ireland Fund, Rooney was appointed by President Obama in March 2009.

Now 80, he is to officially step down in advance of worldwide changes to the US diplomatic corps following President Barack Obama’s re-election.

The deputy chief of mission at the US embassy John Hennessey-Niland will become chargé d’affaires after Rooney’s departure but the identity of his successor is still unknown.

In an op-ed piece for the Irish Times newspaper ahead of his departure, Ambassador Rooney has claimed that Irish American relations have never been better.

He wrote: “Irish generosity and warmth have not wavered and President Obama has told me many times one of his favourite overseas visits was to Moneygall and Dublin’s College Green.

“Our embassy has also reached out to the new Irish – those who have made Ireland home in the past 20 years. We held an entrepreneurship conference here in Dublin designed to advance the social and economic integration of minorities.

“Advancing respect for diversity and cultural differences is an American value and one I have worked to spread. Protecting the vulnerable is a shared American-Irish value and we have worked together to address the international shame of hunger and malnutrition.

“I have been encouraged by the partnership we have developed with social entrepreneurs and non-governmental organisations to address problems here and around the world.”

Ambassador Rooney also believes that Ireland and America can work closely to help each other through these demanding economic times.

He added: “Despite the global headwinds, the US-Irish economic relationship has continued to strengthen. American companies have a total investment of $190 billion (€145 billion) in Ireland and are playing a vital role in helping the Irish economy create jobs.

“To underscore the importance of the economic ties that bind our countries, I have held annual conferences to advance co-operation in the renewable energy sphere, to support US foreign direct investment, and to underscore the co-operative role of Government and private enterprise in improving Ireland’s competitiveness. Ahead of Ireland’s upcoming presidency of the European Council, we look forward to supporting the Government’s plan to focus on increased US-EU trade.”

Just weeks after the visit of Hillary Clinton, Ambassador Rooney reaffirmed America’s commitment to the peace process on the island of Ireland.

He wrote: “The US has partnered – and will continue to partner – in the peace process. With the Irish and British governments, we are working to achieve true peace.

“The gains and institutional changes over the past three years have been enormous. Aware that not everyone has enjoyed the benefits peace has brought, I have worked closely with Senator Martin McAleese and the Department of Foreign Affairs to bridge some of these gaps.

“The US-Irish relationship extends far beyond our own borders as we work together on global security challenges. Our partnership includes initiatives such as our co-leadership of the “1,000 Days: Change a Life, Change the Future” campaign to combat global hunger. Ireland’s chairmanship of the Organisation of Security Co-operation in Europe this past year has provided additional opportunities for us to co-operate on advancing global security.”

In closing, he thanked the Irish people for their warmth and friendship during his time in the Phoenix Park residence.

He said: “It has been an honour and privilege to represent the US as ambassador to Ireland. The president charged me to protect and build the historic and deep friendship between our two countries. I am pleased to say this relationship is the strongest it has ever been.

“Ours is not a foreign relationship between two countries but a shared kinship between two great peoples.”