Congressman Peter King was offered the ambassadorship to Ireland before Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, according to The New York Daily News.
King, the Long Island Republican who has a long history of involvement with Northern Ireland, turned down the offer from White House Chief of Staff Rohm Emanuel.
Sources close to King stated that the White House was very disappointed he did not take up the job.
Emanuel, no doubt, was targeting King’s congressional seat. He is the only remaining Republican on Long Island and a likely pick-up for Democrats if the seat was open.
Emannuel has made a point of targeting open Republican seats. Congressman John McHugh, an upstate Republican, was given the job of Secretary of the Army so his congressional seat could be opened up.
King would have been quite a controversial pick on two levels. He was a hard-nosed supporter of Sinn Fein and Gerry Adams before it was popular or fashionable, and is widely viewed in Ireland as a Sinn Fein hard-core supporter.
That might not have played well with the Irish government, which realizes his involvement with Northern Ireland. Certainly unionists would have voiced vociferous opposition to King.
On the other front, he is an outspoken opponent of illegal immigration and has angered the main Irish lobby group, the Irish Lobby for immigration Reform.
While that rift has somewhat healed, he would still have been open to many questions, such as his attitude to possible visa deals negotiated between the Irish government and the U.S. The U.S. Ambassador would play a key role in interpreting how any such deal is implemented.
One wonders how Dan Rooney will feel about it also. The genial Pittsburgh Steelers owner expects to be confirmed and in place before July 4th, and has a very good relationship with Obama.