Tag Archives: Dan Rooney

Rooney & O’Reilly: Dead … and gone

I’ve been away from the blog for an Easter trip to Rome. During my absence, two Irish Americans made headlines for very different reasons:

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney dies

In my native Pittsburgh and across most of America, Dan Rooney was best known as chairman of the NFL Steelers, the son of the team’s late and much beloved founder. But he also was U.S. Ambassador to Ireland from July 2008 to December 2012, a co-founder of The Ireland Funds, and principal benefactor of the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature at Trinity College Dublin.

He died April 13 at age 84. His grandfather emigrated from Newry, County Down to Montreal, Canada, then moved to Ohio and Pittsburgh, where the late ambassador was born.

“Deeply committed to Ireland and the Irish people, he was always conscious of his Irish roots,” Irish President Michael D. Higgins told The Irish Times.  Said former U.S. President Barack Obama:

Dan Rooney was a great friend of mine, but more importantly, he was a great friend to the people of Pittsburgh, a model citizen, and someone who represented the United States with dignity and grace on the world stage. I knew he’d do a wonderful job when I named him as our United States Ambassador to Ireland, but naturally, he surpassed my high expectations, and I know the people of Ireland thank fondly of him today.

Obama and Rooney, right, in 2014. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette image.

Bill O’Reilly ousted from Fox News

Conservative news anchor Bill O’Reilly and the Fox News Channel parted ways after 20 years in the wake of a New York Times exposé about the media company paying $13 million to settle sexual harassment allegations against the cable television ratings king.

O’Reilly describes the claims as “completely unfounded” and himself as the victim of “the unfortunate reality many of us in the public eye must live with today.”

His great-grandfather emigrated from Clonoose, County Cavan, according to a 2016 episode of the PBS series “Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.” O’Reilly also was a 2014 inductee in Irish America magazine’s Hall of Fame.

The honor recognizes “the extraordinary achievements of Irish-American leaders, from their significant accomplishments and contributions to American society to the personal commitment to safeguarding their Irish heritage and the betterment of Ireland.” Among 45 honorees since 2011: liberal cable television anchor Chris Matthews; former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; and President Donald Trump’s Ambassador to Ireland nominee Brian P. Burns.

But not Dan Rooney, though the magazine has written about him.

I’ve reached out to the New York-based publication by email and Twitter to ask if they plan to keep O’Reilly among their honorees. Maybe they could switch him with Rooney. If you agree, contact the magazine at: @irishamerica, or submit@irishamerica.com.

Obama will return to Ireland in ‘coming year or so’

Outgoing President Barack Obama will return to the Republic of Ireland “in the coming year or so,” according to U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Kevin O’Malley. “The last sentence the president said to me … [4 January] when we were saying goodbye, was ‘please tell them I’m coming’,” O’Malley told RTÉ host Marian Finucane.

While the location or context of his return is less clear than the timing, Obama is generally popular in Ireland. His May 2011 visit included a stop in Moneygall, County Offaly, the ancestral home of his great-great-great grandfather.

Since then, a service plaza was erected in Obama’s honor on the M7 motorway just outside the village. In addition to petrol and fast food, the place is packed with Obama souvenirs, plus memorabilia of popular presidents Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy. In a contemporary sense, it might be the most Irish-American spot in all of Ireland, through certainly not the most scenic or historic.

Barack Obama in Moneygall in 2011.

Obama, who also visited Northern Ireland in June 2013 for a G8 summit, leaves office 20 January, the inaugural of President-elect Donald Trump, who owns a golf resort in Doonbeg, County Clare. O’Malley will leave his Dublin post a few days earlier due to a demanded from the incoming administration that all non-career ambassadors depart immediately.

IrishCentral, citing a tweet from New York Times writer Maggie Haberman, reports the next U.S. Ambassador to Ireland will be philanthropist and businessman Brian Burns, the grandson of an emigrant from Sneem, County Kerry.  Burns, 80, and his wife, Eileen, have been close friends of Trump through the Palm Beach and Mar-A-Lago connection.

O’Malley, a St. Louis trial lawyer whose grandparents emigrated from County Mayo in the early 20th century, was appointed by Obama in June 2014 after a record-setting 18-month gap following the departure former ambassador and Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney.

GAA and NCAA football games capture Ireland’s attention

Ireland hosted two huge football games Saturday [30 August]; a GAA semifinal match in Limerick between Kerry and Mayo, and an NCAA season opener in Dublin between Penn State University and University of Central Florida.

Kerry and Penn State walked off as winners in thrilling games that each came down to the final minute (and overtime for Kerry-Mayo).

This was the fifth time U.S. college teams have played the American version of football in Ireland, a game that has been called the Emerald Isle Classic, the Shamrock Classic and, this year, the Croake Park Classic. The event is aimed at attracting Irish-American visitors to Ireland.

ESPN reported, “Penn State players received the Dan Rooney Trophy, a football made of ancient Irish bog wood that was specially commissioned for the game.” Rooney is owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and a former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland.

Kerry footballer, left, runs past Mayo opponent. Irish Independent photo.

Kerry footballer, left, runs past Mayo opponent. Irish Independent photo.

The Kerry-Mayo contest was the rematch from an earlier game that ended in a tie. The GAA relocated west to Limerick because of the NCAA game, a decision that generated its share of grumbling. From the Irish Independent:

When players imagine and talk about playing on the big stage, that’s Croke Park they’re imagining and talking about. When you and I think of All-Ireland games, we think of walking up to Croke Park. And the spike in your stomach when you catch the first glimpse of the stadium and everything it houses for you, your family and your team. Memories, maybe medals and most definitely magic.

My wife and I watched the GAA contest at Fadó Irish Pub in Washington, where fans of the Kingdom heavily outnumbered Mayo supporters. Here’s the game report. We look forward to watching the final contest 21 September against the winner of the Dublin – Donegal match.

Obama’s dis-connect from Ireland

Is it possible that U.S. President Barack Obama will allow a second St. Patrick’s Day to come and go without naming an ambassador to Ireland?

The diplomatic post has been open been since mid December 2012, when Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney stepped down after three and a half years. Several names have been floated since then for the job, but still no appointment. And the clock is ticking up to March 17.

Obama and Rooney. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette image.

Obama and Rooney. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette image.

Brian O’Dwyer, head of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center and a Democratic Party activist, said Obama’s failure to appoint an ambassador was “an absolute disgrace and a real and total disrespect to the Irish American community.” Irish Central‘s Niall O’Down reported the comments in his Periscope column of October 17, 2012. The column also quoted Stella O’Leary, founder of Irish-American Democrats (O’Dwyer is on the board): “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.

Stuart Dwyer assumed the ambassador’s duties as Chargés d’affaires ad interim at the U.S. Embassy in Dublin on September 5, 2013. That’s the same day that Anne Anderson was appointed by the Irish government as Ambassador to the United States, the first woman in the role.

The Obamas flank Anne Anderson. Image from Irish Central.

The Obamas flank Anne Anderson. Irish Central image.

Three big stories, plus one more

I’ve been remiss in blogging about three big stories out of Ireland and the north of Ireland. So let’s get caught up.

  • Abortion: The October death of a 31-year-old Indian woman refused an abortion in a Dublin hospital after being told she would miscarry, and the opening of an abortion clinic in Belfast has put the contentious issue in the headlines. Activists on both sides have rallied to voice their views. Abortion is subject to different laws in each place because of the island’s political partition.
  • Finucane: A new report about the 1989 murder of IRA attorney Pat Finucane has revealed “a shocking level of state collusion” by the British government and prompted an apology by Prime Minister David Cameron. Finucane’s widow calls the report “a sham” and “a whitewash,” while Irish Central founder and columnist Naill O’Dowd alleges former PM Margaret Thatcher ordered the killing.
  • Flags: Unionists/loyalists in Northern Ireland have erupted in numerous violent protests over reducing the number of days the Union Jack flies at Belfast City Hall.
  • Finally, Dan Rooney has stepped down as U.S. ambassador to Ireland after three years. Rooney is also chairman of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I’ve never met him in person, but I’ve long admired him as a native of Pittsburgh. Like his late father, team founder Art Rooney, the son is a regular Mass-goer. I shared the sign of peace with him at St. Mary of Mercy Catholic Church in December 2008, shortly before his appointment by President Obama. For all he has done for Pittsburgh and for Ireland, “Thanks Dan.”