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Dan Rooney resigns as U.S. ambassador to Ireland

| Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012, 6:00 p.m.
Ambassador Dan Rooney, who stepped down from the job Friday, is surrounded by embassy employees at Dublin Airport Friday as he prepares to board a plane for his return to the United States. Rooney spoke briefly with the staff of the U.S. Embassy in Ireland, thanking them for their service. Courtesy of the U.S. Embassy
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Dan Rooney, United States Ambassador to Ireland and chairman emeritus of the Steelers, watches warmups before a game against the Eagleson Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012, in Pittsburgh.

Steelers co-owner Dan Rooney stepped down Friday as ambassador to Ireland and headed back to the United States.

During his time in Dublin, Rooney had maintained a high-profile presence — visiting every Irish county and hosting President Obama in 2001 — but his departure happened quietly with little fanfare. The U.S. Embassy in Ireland posted on its Twitter account a photo of Rooney surrounded by a few onlookers and a video tribute.

“There was no official announcement,” embassy spokesman John Murphy said in an email. “It was more of a low key heads up to Irish media.”

The U.S. embassy posted a video recapping Dan Rooney's time as ambassador.

In an editorial that appeared today in The Irish Times , Rooney said it had been “an honour and privilege” to represent the United States and the Obama administration.

“The president charged me to protect and build the historic and deep friendship between our two countries,” Rooney wrote. “I am pleased to say this relationship is the strongest it has ever been. Ours is not a foreign relationship between two countries but a shared kinship between two great peoples.”

When asked what role Rooney would have upon his return, his son and team president Art Rooney II said in a text: “My father has been busy and focused on his position in Ireland so we really haven't talked about what he wants to do when he gets back. We'll talk about that after the season.”

Dan Rooney, 80, the Steelers' chairman emeritus, delegated the day-to-day operations of the team to his son in 2003.

Before accepting the ambassadorship from Obama, the elder Rooney concentrated on National Football League business affairs. He long has been one of the league's most influential and powerful owners.

His resignation has been expected for nearly a year, and he never gave signals that he planned to stay on for Obama's second term. In January, Art Rooney said he expected his father to resign by the end of the year.

During NFL owners' meetings two months later, numerous owners said they welcomed the news that Dan Rooney would return to a more active role in league business. Rooney — who has had a role with the Steelers since he was a teenager in the 1940s — was involved in labor affairs, contract negotiations and TV contract talks, among other issues.

In recent years, Rooney was best known for pushing the league to adopt what became known as “the Rooney Rule,” which requires teams to interview minority candidates for key coaching and administrative jobs.

Rooney, a strong supporter of Obama, accepted the ambassador's post on March 17, 2009. The president cited Rooney's long-standing role in supporting Irish-American charities.

Staff writer Andrew Conte contributed to this report. Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at arobinson@tribweb.com.

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