View Full Version : Dan the straight-talking Super Bowl fan

07-04-2009, 10:39 AM
Dan the straight-talking Super Bowl fan

By Sam Smyth
Saturday July 04 2009

THE new US Ambassador to Ireland doesn't use the carefully crafted double-speak that career diplomats employ. If he doesn't know the answer, Ambassador Dan Rooney says he doesn't.

He made no apology for not knowing all the details of US policy yesterday, having presented his credentials to President Mary McAleese some four hours earlier. But he clearly is in thrall to President Barack Obama, who appointed him ambassador on St Patrick's Day. A life-long republican, 76-year-old Dan crossed the party divide to back Obama nearly a year before the presidential election.

The grandson of a Newry-born emigrant to the US, his father Arthur Rooney bought football team the Pittsburgh Steelers as a birthday present for his son in 1936 for $2,500.

The Steelers have won the Super Bowl more than any other team, and it was Dan who introduced the Rooney Rule that requires any team with a head coach vacancy to interview at least one minority candidate.

Dan did all the negotiations with his players and visited them in hospital. He passed the presidency of the club to his son Art in 2003.

In 1976, he co-founded the American Ireland Fund with Sir Anthony O'Reilly, who named Dan along with Henry Kissinger, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton as being among the people who had made a lasting impression on him after living 30 years in America.

Dan arrived in Ireland on Thursday with his wife, Patricia, and two of his grandchildren.

The ambassador is straight-talking and has a wry sense of humour, comparing his role to that of John the Baptist, spreading the word for his president.

After deftly dealing with press questions yesterday, he really became animated when asked if he would be attending the Super Bowl this year. "Oh yes," he said. "Especially if the Steelers are playing." But bringing his president to Ireland is high on his priorities, and he is clearly very proud of both his ancestral homeland and the president with family in Co Offaly.

- Sam Smyth