THE DEATH HAS occurred of former US ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney.
He was 84.
Serving as US President Barack Obama’s ambassador to Ireland between 2009 and 2012, Rooney was also well-known in American football circles as owner and chairman of the Pittsburgh Steelers NFL team.
Rooney was the son of Art Rooney, himself the owner of the Steelers, and was heavily involved in all aspects of the franchise since childhood.
His spearheading of an initiative to require all NFL teams to interview minority candidates for senior coaching jobs led to its adoption in 2003. It became known as the Rooney Rule.
In March 2009 Obama nominated Rooney as ambassador to Ireland, a role he was confirmed for in July of that year.
Rooney’s Irish connections could be traced back to the town of Newry in Co Down.
Speaking this evening, President Michael D Higgins said he had “heard with sadness of the passing of Dan Rooney”.
“Sabina and I remember Ambassador Rooney and his family’s visit to us in Áras an Uachtaráin with fondness,” he said.
Deeply committed to Ireland and the Irish people, he was always conscious of his Irish roots.
He was a major contributor to the Ireland Funds. Thanks to his contributions and those of others many projects promoting peace and reconciliation in Ireland were initiated, leaving a real and tangible legacy.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny meanwhile commented that he was “deeply saddened” to learn of Rooney’s passing, adding that “Dan was a personal friend of mine”.
During his time as American ambassador to Ireland Dan visited every county in Ireland and his work brought both the United States and Ireland closer together.
Dan was a founding President of the Ireland Fund. He leaves a massive legacy which will benefit many people for the years to come.