Tributes to United States ambassador with Newry links
21 April 2017
Dan Rooney, a former US ambassador to Ireland who had long maintained his links to Newry, has passed away.
Mr Rooney (84), owner of the American football team the Pittsburgh Steelers, who was labelled as ‘no greater champion of Irish American relations’ died last week with his family name strongly tied to Newry since before the Irish famine.
A remarkable man, Dan Rooney’s great-great-grandfather James was born in Newry in 1829 and owned lands at the Derrybeg and Meadow areas of the city with the latter’s original name being ‘Rooney’s Meadow’.
Mr Rooney, whose father founded the Steelers in 1933, developed very close links with the Whitegates Business Centre in the Meadow and remained in regular contact up until his death.
Establishing the Rooney Fellowship at the SRC has enabled local students to undertake an internship and placement in Pittsburgh each year, with Dan Rooney making his last visit with this wife Patricia in June 2015 to present the Fellowship award to student Amy Richardson.
SRC chief executive Brian Doran paid tribute to Dan Rooney, a man who never forgot his roots in Newry.
“This is a sad day for Newry and for the Southern Regional College, Mr Rooney was fiercely proud of his ancestry and his links to Newry City,” said Mr Doran.
“He always looked forward to returning to Newry each year to announce the new Rooney Internship winner here at the college. He touched the hearts of many people and none more so than the past Rooney Fellows over the last 24 years.
“The contribution he made to peace in Northern Ireland should not be forgotten including his involvement in the American Ireland Fund and the support provided to so many organisations and communities both here in Newry and across the island of Ireland.
“The college, the city of Newry and the people of Ireland were absolutely thrilled when Dan Rooney was appointed as the US Ambassador to Ireland in 2009. It was a fitting recognition for all that he had done to support the Peace Process and develop community relations throughout the island of Ireland.
“I recall Hilary Clinton’s comments as Secretary of State at his swearing as ambassador to Ireland back in 2009 when she said that there was no greater champion of Irish-American relations than Dan Rooney.
“Ambassador Rooney was a true gentleman and someone whom we are indebted to for the life-changing experience that he provided for so many of our students through the internship programme in Pittsburgh.
“He will be greatly missed by everyone here at the college.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Patricia his wife and family at this very difficult time,” added the CEO.
Commentators have said that the name Dan Rooney will go down in history most notably for the strong bonds he made with his ancestral home.
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson Cllr Gillian Fitzpatrick spoke of Dan Rooney’s lasting connection with the city.
“It is with great sorrow to hear of the passing of Dan Rooney,” said Cllr Fitzpatrick.
“Dan accomplished so much in his life. He was the US Ambassador to Ireland under President Obama’s administration and notably in 2000 Dan became only the third person in history to be presented with the Charter of Newry, which was established by the King of Ireland in the 12th century.
“Dan will be sorely missed and, on behalf of all residents in the Newry, Mourne and Down area, may he rest in peace. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time,” added the chairperson.
Former Enterprise Newry Group Convenor, Feargal McCormack, paid a moving tribute to Dan Rooney for his tireless efforts to facilitate peace and reconciliation.
“When history reflects on the last 100 years and the contributions of great Irishmen, Dan Rooney will among the top names listed as one of the main driving forces to Ireland’s enhancement,” said Mr McCormack.
Visits to Newry
Newry and Armagh MP Mickey Brady highlighted the economic impact Dan Rooney made to the district.
“Dan Rooney’s roots could be traced back to Newry from where his great-great-grandfather, James Rooney, left the area and moved to Wales in 1846, and he has maintained close ties to the city for most of his life,” said Mr Brady.
“The former US ambassador to Ireland and his wife were frequent visitors to our City. He made significant contributions to the economic regeneration of Newry and Ireland as a whole. A dheis Dé go raibh a anam,” added the MP.
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams TD, recalled his meetings with the US ambassador and expressed his sadness at the death of philanthropist Dan Rooney.
“Ba mhaith liom mo chombhrón a thabhairt do chlann Rooney,” said Mr Adams.
“I heard with great regret of the death of Dan Rooney.
“I met Dan and his wife Peggy in Pittsburgh some years ago. They were both very interested in and supportive of the peace process.
“Their philanthropy and kindness is legendary in Pittsburgh and beyond.
“Dan Rooney’s appointment as US Ambassador to Ireland in 2009 was widely welcomed.
“As ambassador he initiated a series of cross-border gatherings to discuss how best to develop cross-border projects.
“He also made the annual Fourth of July party at the residence in the Phoenix Park into a family event with children at the centre of the celebrations.
“My sincere condolences to his wife Patricia and to their large family.
“Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis,” added the Louth TD.
The Reporter contacted the US Embassy in Dublin who engaged with the former US president Barack Obama to release a statement on the passing of Dan Rooney.
“We are saddened to hear of the death of former US Ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney,” said an embassy spokesperson.
“Ambassador Rooney was loved by all who met him, including everyone who worked with him at the US Embassy in Dublin. We are grateful for his contributions to the continuing strength of the US-Ireland relationship.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this difficult time,” he added.
Former US president Barack Obama appointed Dan Rooney to his role as ambassador, but also as a friend to Ireland.
“Dan Rooney was a great friend of mine, but more importantly, he was a great friend to the people of Pittsburgh, a model citizen, and someone who represented the United States with dignity and grace on the world stage,” said Mr Obama.
“I knew he’d do a wonderful job when I named him as our United States ambassador to Ireland, but naturally, he surpassed my high expectations, and I know the people of Ireland think fondly of him today. And I know the people of Pittsburgh, who loved him not only for the Super Bowl championships he brought as the owner of the Steelers, but for his generosity of spirit, mourn his passing today. Michelle and I offer our condolences to the Rooney family, some of the most gracious and thoughtful people we know, even as we celebrate the life of Dan Rooney: a championship-caliber good man,” added the former president.To read more subscribe to our online Newspaper