Bill Clinton speaks to an audience in UCD in 2010. A Chicago newspaper has suggested Cilnton may be appointed as the next US ambassador to Ireland. Julien Behal/PA Archive

Could Bill Clinton be the next US ambassador to Ireland?

One of the United States’ leading newspapers certainly thinks so…

PRESIDENT MICHAEL D HIGGINS could be getting some illustrious new neighbours in the coming months, if reports in the United States are to be believed.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that former US president Bill Clinton has been earmarked as his country’s next ambassador to Ireland, and may be moving to the Phoenix Park in the coming months.

Current ambassador Dan Rooney, who turned 80 last year, is expected to abide by traditional protocol and step down in January when Barack Obama’s first term as president formally ends.

This is the usual procedure for all presidential appointees, such as members of the cabinet, and allows the President to decide whether they want to reappoint each member – sparing them the ignominy of having to sack someone in order to replace them.

The Sun-Times’ columnist Michael Sneed says Rooney is set to retire when he steps down next month – having recently stepped down as Chairman of the Pittsburgh Steelers NFL team, of which his family is the main shareholder – leaving the door open for a new appointment.

This, Sneed reports, could be 66-year-old Clinton – who has Irish family roots, and who has previously joked that his Irish heritage would be enough to allow him seek Irish citizenship and run for the Irish presidency if he so wished.

The columnist says the assignment would be ideal for Clinton – who has a deep affinity for the country, particularly given his role in the Northern Irish peace process, and who could combine the role with his work in the Clinton Global Initiative.

The position could also be seen as a reward of sorts for Bill, whose speech at the Democratic National Convention helped to reinvigorate Barack Obama’s campaign and helped the incumbent president gain a larger post-convention ‘bounce’ than his Republican rival Mitt Romney.

It may also be seen as an opportunity for Hillary Clinton – who will step down as Secretary of State next month with the rest of the cabinet, and who has ruled herself out of the running for a second term – to enjoy some downtime and to potentially prepare for a presidential bid in 2016.

Hillary, 65, remains a popular prospect as the Democrats’ candidate to succeed Obama in 2016 despite regular insistences that she currently does not intend to mount a follow-up campaign to her 2008 defeat to Obama in the Democratic primaries.

Though Clinton would be an unusually high-profile appointee to an ambassadorial role, the notion of a former president turning ambassador is not a new one.

John F. Kennedy, who famously had family links to Co Wexford, had openly discussed his wishes to be appointed as the US ambassador to Ireland when he had stepped down from the presidency. He was assassinated 22 months into his presidency, however.

Read: Bill Clinton to urge US business leaders: ‘Invest in Ireland’

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