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Dan Rooney likely to step down as ambassador, son says

| Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012

Steelers chairman emeritus Dan Rooney is expected to leave his post as United States ambassador to Ireland sometime this year, his son said on Tuesday.

Steelers President Art Rooney II said of his father stepping down, "I think that my mother has a date. I don't know if my father does. ... He hasn't given me a date yet. I've asked but he hasn't given me a date."

Dan Rooney, 79, said he hasn't set one yet.

"In reference to recent media reports, the role of ambassador from the United States of America to Ireland is extremely rewarding work. It is a privilege to serve President Obama and the country, and to support and expand the excellent relationship we enjoy with Ireland. On July 4, 2012, I will have served three years in Dublin. There is no specific date for departure," he said in a statement e-mailed from the embassy this morning.

Rooney was appointed by President Obama and sworn in on July 1, 2009. On Aug. 18, Rooney achieved his goal of hosting public meetings in each of Ireland's 26 counties when he and his wife, Patricia, visited Westmeath.

Another highlight of his 2 1/2-year tenure was persuading Obama to visit Ireland in May 2011.

The White House declined to comment on Rooney's possible departure.

Despite his age and the distance involved, Rooney has attended Steelers games throughout his ambassadorship. His attendance has grown more regular this year, and included the Steelers' AFC playoff loss in Denver.

″I think he'll come back and be a key player, let's put it that way,″ Art Rooney II said of his father's role with the franchise. ″He obviously enjoys being part of the team, so we'll look forward to having him back.″

It's not the first time Rooney has been rumored to be heading for the exit. Last year, The Irish Times reported he was getting ready to step down to help with the president's 2012 re-election campaign — something Rooney later denied.

Rooney, a lifelong Republican, was among the first prominent Pennsylvanians to endorse Obama in the 2008 primary while most of the state's Democratic establishment lined up behind then-Sen. Hillary Clinton. Rooney stumped for Obama around the state during the primary and general elections.

Rooney's family is from Newry, in Northern Ireland. He was involved in the peace process in Ireland for decades before his appointment, including co-founding the American Ireland Fund in 1976. The foundation supports more than 200 programs intended to bring together Catholics and Protestants.

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