There had been expectations that a new ambassador would be named during the St. Patrick’s Day visit to the White House of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, but no mention was made of the vacancy or the administration’s preferred nominee.
Speculation as to the identity of a new ambassador has focused on Chicago businessman James Kenny, a prominent figure in the Windy City’s construction industry. But the lack of a formal naming of Kenny has led to speculation that there might be possible problems with his required Senate confirmation hearings. At least one reliable Washington source said this week that Kenny is still the likely nominee, but there has been precious little movement on that front in recent weeks.
Kennedy had raised a number of issues regarding the nomination of Egan, a Massachusetts businessman, before he was eventually confirmed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
In their letter to Powell, Kennedy and Dodd said that an important diplomatic posting had been left open for six months. Given the “important relationship between the United States and Ireland, both diplomatically and economically,” the senators asked that the Department of State “move” on a nominee as soon as possible.
“We know that you continue to be deeply involved with issues of the utmost urgency and we respect that,” the senators said. “Unfortunately, we have begun to hear reports that the people of Ireland feel they are being slighted by the delay in the selection of the new ambassador.”
The senators stated that Ireland had always been one of America’s closest allies.
“The ties between our two countries continue to be strong and the active presence of a U.S. ambassador in Dublin is an indispensable symbol and essential part of this relationship,” the senators wrote. “We look forward very much to the prompt appointment of a new U.S. ambassador with the ability and dedication to be an outstanding representative of our country to the Irish people.”
Kennedy and Dodd stated that it was “even more important” to have an ambassador in place in Dublin given the expected departure from the State Department of Richard Haass, the Bush administration’s envoy to the Northern Ireland peace process.
The senators concluded by expressing the hope that the nominee for ambassador would be given high priority in the background investigation and other steps necessary for nomination.
“Ireland is too important a nation and too good a friend for the position to remain vacant for so long,” they said.