Dan Rooney, President Obama's nominee to be ambassador to Ireland, spoke warmly about his ancestors' flight from Newry in County Down and swore to forge deeper relations with Dublin, "especially in the quest for peace," in his statement Wednesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at Capitol Hill.
Rooney talked about making sure the strong relationship between the U.S. and Ireland is not "taken for granted." He said that, as ambassador, he would aspire to leave Dublin often for trips around the Emerald Isle.
He predicted that Ireland's recession "is going to start turning back," but the days of Ireland's hasty economic growth might not return quickly. He promised to help woo American corporations to invest in Ireland and Irish companies to build businesses in the United States.
Rooney also impressed the committee by exhibiting strong passion towards the issues at hand, as well as a bit of classic Irish charm.
The only committee members who stayed throughout the hearing, Edward Kaufman [D-Del.], Richard Lugar [R-Ind.], and Jeanne Shaheen [D-N.H.], focused on the economic difficulties in Ireland and showed much admiration for Mr. Rooney.
When asked whether it was better to win the Super Bowl or to be nominated as an ambassador, Rooney humorously replied, “I’m not sure I can answer that.”
Rooney also added that Congress needs to address Ireland's demands for improving a special two-year visa program and suggested the process could be adjusted for the better through complete immigration legislation.
Although Rooney admits the difficulty of leaving his day-to-day role with the Steelers, which he has had since 1975, he “really wanted to do something for the country.”
The decision has not yet been made official, but Senators believe that he could be confirmed by the full Senate as early as next week, and Rooney could be celbrating July 4th in Phoenix Park.