US Senate confirms new ambassador to Ireland

Ohio businessman Ed Crawford was nominated by President Donald Trump

Ohio businessman Ed Crawford.

Ohio businessman Ed Crawford.

 

Ohio businessman Edward Crawford is to become the next US ambassador to Ireland, after the US senate endorsed his nomination in a vote on Thursday.

The 100-member senate voted by 90-4 in favour of President Donald Trump’s nominee.

Among those who voted against were several candidates to become the Democratic nominee for president including Senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren. Earlier in the day, senators Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Bernie Sanders of Vermont had voted against closing debate on his nomination - a procedural motion. However, neither Gillibrand nor Sanders were present for the final vote in the chamber. Though some Democrats tend to vote against President Trump’s nominees, there was surprise that Ms Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, had moved to delay the vote earlier in the process.

The confirmation of Mr Crawford comes more than two years since his name was touted for the diplomatic position after Florida-based Brian Burns pulled out of the process due to illness. Ireland is one of the last countries to have been assigned an ambassador by the Trump administration.

Crawford (81) was officially nominated by Mr Trump late last year, and re-nominated in January when a new Congress took office after the mid-term elections. He was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations committee in April.

An Irish-American from Cleveland, Ohio, Mr Crawford’s parents emigrated from Ireland in the 1920s.

He founded his business, Park Ohio Holdings, in 1960, building it into an international company with revenues of $1.9 billion. It employs more than 7.500 people across the globe.

The Nasdaq-listed manufacturing and supply-chain business acquired Cork-based supply chain business QEF Global limited in 2013 and continues to employ a small number of people there.

Mr Crawford was the finance chairman for the Republican National Committee’s Ohio campaign during the 2016 presidential race, and a supporter of Mr Trump. Appearing before the US Senate foreign relations committee at his confirmation hearing in April, Mr Crawford pledged to work to further US-Irish relations and maintain US commitment to the Northern Ireland peace process if confirmed.

He said that the United States and Ireland had worked to resolve conflicts and foster prosperity throughout the decades.

“If confirmed, I pledge to work closely with the members of the foreign relations and commit to advance US interests and values in Ireland,” he told the committee. Brexit, and the possibility of the reintroduction of a hard border in Ireland, also featured heavily during the hearing.

Mr Crawford, who was accompanied by members of his extended family at the confirmation hearing in April, also talked about his experience growing up in an Irish-American household, recalling how his mother had emigrated from Ireland in 1927 and his father in 1925.

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

He told senators that, over his 58 years building his company, he had learned a great deal about people, expressing the belief that his business experience could be used in positive ways to develop the relationship between the United States and Ireland.

Ireland’s ambassador to the United States, Dan Mulhall, welcomed Mr Crawford’s confirmation on Thursday. “I am delighted that Ed Crawford has been confirmed by the Senate today to be the next US ambassador to Ireland. Ambassador Crawford has long been a prominent and highly-regarded member of the Irish community in Cleveland.”

The position of US ambassador to Ireland has been vacant since the departure of Kevin O’Malley, Barack Obama’s nominee, in January 2017. The role is being filled in the interim by US embassy charge d’affaires Reece Smyth.