President Barack Obama on Tuesday selected Pittsburgh Steelers football team owner Dan Rooney to be US ambassador to Ireland, turning to a lifelong Republican who provided the Democrat critical campaign support during the White House race.
The 76-year-old Rooney endorsed Obama over Hillary Rodham Clinton during Pennsylvania's contentious Democratic primary; Clinton won the contest last April. Rooney later campaigned for Obama in western Pennsylvania, home to many Steelers' fans, and Obama went on to win the state last November.
The grandson of an Irish immigrant, Rooney in the 1970s helped found the American Ireland Fund, an organization that has raised millions for advocacy of peace and education in Ireland. His legacy is reflected in a Steelers-themed bar in a disused linen mill in one of the roughest parts of northwest Belfast.
In announcing the nomination on St. Patrick's Day, Obama called Rooney "an unwavering supporter of Irish peace, culture and education."