‘Friend of Newry’ American philanthropist mourned

April 18, 2017

A former US ambassador to Ireland with close links to Newry died on Thursday last at the age of 84.

Dan Rooney, whose ancestors were from the city, was co-founder of the Ireland Funds charity, which has benefitted thousands of Irish organisations around the world.

He was born in Pittsburgh in 1932, into a family that helped to found the American Football team, the Pittsburgh Steelers and later became chairman of the side which has won more Super Bowl titles than any other National Football League (NFL) team.

In 2009 he was appointed United States’ ambassador to Ireland by President Barack Obama who described him as “an unwavering supporter of Irish peace, culture and education”, and held the role until 2012.

A generous philanthropist, the Irish American forged close links with his ancestral home and established the Southern Regional College’s annual Rooney Fellowship Award, which is now in its 25th year.  The prestigious award enables the chosen student to undertake an internship and placement in Pittsburgh USA, combining studies at the world renowned Duquesne University with periods of work placement in the Pittsburgh Steelers Football Team and Heinz Corporation.

Extending sympathy, Newry and Armagh MP Mickey Brady said “Dan Rooney’s [family] roots could be traced back to Newry from where his great, great grandfather, James Rooney, left the area and moved to Wales in 1846, and he has maintained close ties to the city for most of his life.  The former US Ambassador to Ireland and his wife were frequent visitors to our city. He made significant contributions to the economic regeneration of Newry and Ireland as a whole.  Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.”