Belfast Telegraph

Tributes to ex-US envoy Dan Rooney who played key role in the peace process

By Adrian Rutherford

Tributes have been paid to former US ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney following his death at the age of 84.

The one-time chairman of the Pittsburgh Steelers American football team had close links to Northern Ireland and the peace process.

Mr Rooney, whose grandfather was from Newry, was the co-founder of The Ireland Funds charity.

He was awarded an honorary CBE in 2008 for his contributions to peace and reconciliation.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood hailed Mr Rooney as "a great friend of Ireland".

Irish President Michael D Higgins said his contributions to peace and reconciliation had left a "real and tangible legacy".

Mr Rooney was born in Pittsburgh in 1932 into a family that helped to found the Steelers, one of American football's most successful sides.

He married another Pittsburgh native, Patricia Regan, known as Peggy, and they had nine children.

From 2009 to 2012 he served as US ambassador to Ireland, having been appointed by President Barack Obama.

Mr Obama described Mr Rooney as a "great friend... who represented the United States with dignity and grace on the world stage".

The US Embassy in Ireland said Mr Rooney was "loved by all who met him, including everyone who worked with him in Dublin".

Mr Rooney co-founded The Ireland Funds with Tony O'Reilly in 1976. It later merged with the American Irish Foundation to form the American Ireland Funds. John Fitzpatrick from The Ireland Funds said: "Dan was an utter gentleman and utterly selfless."

He added: "The work of The Ireland Funds is his legacy and Ireland is a better place because of him. Thousands have benefited from his care and concern."

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he was "deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Dan Rooney".

Mr Higgins said: "He leaves a massive legacy which will benefit many people for the years to come."

The Pittsburgh Steelers said: "Dan Rooney touched so many lives, from the men who played for him, to presidents and world leaders."

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