Dan Rooney / Our shared kinship with the Irish people
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DUBLIN, Ireland -- It was a cool July day in 2009 when I arrived at the Aras an Uachtarain in Dublin to present my credentials as ambassador of the United States to Mary McAleese, who was then the president of Ireland. She welcomed me warmly and spoke of the importance of the relationship between the United States and Ireland and the special role the United States should play in the world. Hers was the first of a hundred thousand welcomes my wife Patricia and I would receive here in Ireland over the next three and a half years.
As I resign my ambassadorship today, I think back to my arrival in Ireland, which was starting to feel the effects of the global economic crisis that summer. Over the next three years I would travel to every county on the island -- both North and South. I have met with people from every part of Ireland and from every walk of life and developed a deeper respect for the determination of the Irish people to succeed in the face of hardship. Irish generosity and warmth have not wavered and President Barack Obama has told me many times that one of his favorite overseas visits was his time spent in Ireland -- in his ancestral village of Moneygall and on Dublin's College Green.
Our embassy has also reached out to the new Irish -- those who have made Ireland home in the last 20 years. We held an entrepreneurship conference here in Dublin designed to advance the social and economic integration of minorities. Advancing respect for diversity and cultural differences is an American value and one that I have worked to spread.
Protecting the vulnerable is a shared American and Irish value and our two countries have worked hand-in-hand to address the international shame of hunger and malnutrition. I have been encouraged by the partnership we have developed with social entrepreneurs and non-governmental organizations to address problems here and around the world.
Despite the global headwinds, the U.S.-Irish economic relationship has continued to strengthen over the last three years. American companies have invested $190 billion in Ireland and are playing a vital role in helping the Irish economy create jobs.
To underscore the importance of the economic ties that bind our countries, I have held annual conferences to advance cooperation in the renewable energy sphere, to support U.S. foreign direct investment and to underscore the cooperative role of government and private enterprise in improving Ireland's competitiveness. Looking forward to Ireland's upcoming presidency of the European Council, we are encouraged by the Irish government's plan to focus on increased U.S.-European Union trade.
The United States will continue to help advance the peace process here, working with the Irish and British governments to achieve true peace and reconciliation. The gains and institutional changes over the past three years have been enormous. Aware that not everyone has enjoyed the full benefits peace has brought, I have worked closely with Sen. Martin McAleese and the Department of Foreign Affairs to bridge some of these gaps.
The U.S.-Irish relationship extends far beyond our own borders as we work together to address global security challenges. The United States and Ireland have co-led the 1,000 Days: Change a Life, Change the Future Campaign to combat global hunger. Ireland's chairmanship of the Organization of Security Cooperation in Europe this past year has provided additional opportunities for us to cooperate on advancing global security.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers stationed here in Ireland work with An Garda Siochana to protect our borders and international air travel. We cooperate closely to combat modern-day slavery and trafficking in persons. And one of my fondest memories of Ireland will be greeting and thanking U.S. military personnel for their service as they transit Shannon on their way home from the hard places in the world.
I have had a lifelong commitment to advancing the relationship between the American and Irish people and building peace on this beautiful island, but I came unexpectedly into politics and diplomacy. It has been an honor and privilege to represent President Barack Obama and the United States of America as ambassador to Ireland.
President Obama charged me to protect and build the historic and deep friendship between our two countries. I am pleased to say this relationship, which is built on enduring family ties, a common heritage and shared values, is the strongest it has ever been. Ours is not a foreign relationship between two countries; ours is a shared kinship between two great peoples.
First Published December 14, 2012 12:00 am