US finally ready to nominate new ambassador to Ireland

Ambassador is a lawyer, according to sources, who does not have a high profile in Ireland

US president Barack Obama: Ireland post has been vacant since departure in 2012 of Dan Rooney, a supporter of Mr Obama. Photograph: Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters

US president Barack Obama: Ireland post has been vacant since departure in 2012 of Dan Rooney, a supporter of Mr Obama. Photograph: Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters

 

The Obama administration is poised to nominate a new ambassador to Ireland, finally filling the post after an 18-month hiatus.

The new ambassador is a lawyer, according to several sources. After a time working in the business world, he is now preparing for a period in public service.

The nominee does not have a high profile in Ireland, it is understood.

The post has been vacant since the departure in December 2012 of former ambassador Dan Rooney, owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers football team and supporter of President Barack Obama.

Mr Rooney had held the position since Mr Obama appointed him in March 2009.

The delay in making the appointment had caused some anxiety in Irish-American circles and within the Government.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny raised the matter with Mr Obama in the Oval Office when they met during St Patrick’s Day celebrations in March.

“It’s a matter exclusively for the president, and we hope it can be dealt with pretty soon,” Mr Kenny said then.

Procedural work in Washington and Dublin to make way for the nomination is now largely complete, prompting expectation in political circles that the White House will reveal the name today or in coming days. The Government is believed have given its assent to the nomination.

The appointment is subject to the approval of the US Senate, where the nominee will face a confirmation hearing.

The US embassy in Dublin declined to comment on the matter, saying any announcement would be made in Washington by the White House. The appointment comes with an official residence in the Phoenix Park.

The selection of the new ambassador comes as outgoing Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore makes a renewed push for immigration reforms in the US before he leaves office next month.

The Tánaiste is also pushing for an early return to political talks in Northern Ireland to settle questions related to the past, flags and parades, an initiative in which the US government has provided considerable assistance.

However, American envoy Dr Richard Haass indicated in the past fortnight that he sees no role for himself in efforts to revive the talks before the loyalist marching season.