US Senate committee approves next Irish ambassador

Ohio businessman and son of Irish immigrants Edward Crawford likely to be confirmed

Edward Crawford has pledged to further US-Irish relations and maintain US commitment to the Northern Ireland peace process if confirmed as US ambassador to Ireland.

Edward Crawford has pledged to further US-Irish relations and maintain US commitment to the Northern Ireland peace process if confirmed as US ambassador to Ireland.

 

The US Senate’s foreign relations committee has voted to endorse Edward Crawford to become the next US ambassador to Ireland, paving the way for a full senate vote in the coming weeks.

The committee considered president Donald Trump’s nominee at a meeting in the US Capitol on Wednesday morning, and approved his nomination unanimously by voice vote – one of six nominations that were considered together.

A vote by the full 100-member senate will now be scheduled, but his endorsement by the foreign relations committee is likely to secure his path to confirmation.

Wednesday’s vote comes three weeks after the Ohio businessman appeared before the committee where he was questioned about his priorities if appointed to the position.

Mr Crawford, whose parents were both from Ireland, pledged to further US-Irish relations and maintain US commitment to the Northern Ireland peace process if confirmed.

Ireland has been without an ambassador since Missouri lawyer Kevin O’Malley, Barack Obama’s envoy to Ireland, stepped down with the inauguration of Mr Trump in January 2017.

The duties of ambassador have been filled since then by the US charge d’affaires Reece Smyth.

Among the other ambassadorial nominees endorsed by the committee on Wednesday were ambassadors to Turkey and North Macedonia.

Mr Crawford founded Park-Ohio Holdings, a business that grew to become a Nasdaq-listed company and now operates more than 125 manufacturing sites and supply-chain facilities across the world and a workforce of 7,500 people.

He stepped down as chief executive of the company last year ahead of his nomination as ambassador and was replaced by his son Matthew who had been chief operating officer.

Ambassadorial nominees are subject to stringent financial disclosure and conflict of interest rules.

Based in Cleveland, Mr Crawford has been heavily involved in Republican politics and was an early supporter of Mr Trump. He was the finance chairman for the Republican National Committee’s Ohio campaign during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Appearing before the senate foreign relations committee last month Mr Crawford highlighted the role the US could still play in the peace process.

“If confirmed, I pledge to work closely with the members of the foreign relations commit to advance US interests and values in Ireland,” he told the committee.

Ellis Island

Mr Crawford, who was accompanied by his wife and members of his wider family at the hearing, recalled how his mother had emigrated from Ireland in 1927 and his father in 1925.

Both had arrived in the US at Ellis Island, he said. “They would be very proud of what we have accomplished as a family and our need to serve America.”

Mr Crawford outlined how he had founded his manufacturing business in 1960 in Cleveland, Ohio, building it into an international business with revenues of $1.9 billion (€1.7bn).

“In the 58 years building this company I learned a great deal about people,” he said, pledging to bring “knowledge and enthusiasm” to the role of ambassador.

Noting that his business was not a “high tech business”, but a business that makes products for trucks, washing machines, the aerospace sector, he said he was “very proud of our relationship with our factory employees”.

Noting that he owns a distribution business in Cork city which employs 17 people, he stressed that his business experience could be used in positive ways to develop the relationship between the US and Ireland.

“I think I could be a very positive force for the goal to make the relationship stronger,” he said.

Brexit featured heavily during the hearing. Mr Crawford said that “it’s unfortunate that we have two of our closest allies, the EU and the UK, in this situation,” noting that it had affected Ireland “in very strange ways”.

Responding to questioning from New Hampshire senator Jeanne Shaheen, who recalled crossing the Border between the Republic and Northern Ireland before the peace process, Mr Crawford said that Brexit was “something that has to be settled by the two parties most concerned that is the EU and the UK”. However, he said that it was the US position that the Belfast Agreement should be upheld at all costs.