By Ray O’Hanlon
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is set to interview Cleveland, Ohio, businessman Edward Crawford, President Trump’s nominee as ambassador to Ireland.
A hearing is set for tomorrow, Thursday, April 11.
The panel’s approval is anticipated.
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The vacancy at the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Dublin passed the two year mark on Sunday, January 20 of this year.
Crawford was first nominated by the president in September of last year but was then re-nominated when the newly elected Congress took its seats in January.
Crawford, a successful Cleveland, Ohio businessman, was formally announced last September as President Trump’s choice for an ambassadorship that has long symbolized the close relationship between the United States and Ireland.
Businessman Brian Burns was President Trump’s first choice as ambassador to replace Ambassador Kevin O’Malley who left Dublin, as per State Department instruction, on the day of Trump’s inauguration, January 20, 2017.
Mr. Burns withdrew his name from consideration citing health reasons and from the summer of 2017 the name of Mr. Crawford was the only one circulating as the likely replacement.
A long-time Republican backer and donor, Mr. Crawford is the billionaire chairman of Park-Ohio Holdings, a Nasdaq-listed company which has operations around the world, including in Cork.
Mr. Crawford, whose parents came from County Cork, was an early supporter of Donald Trump’s presidential bid.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, he was Trump’s Ohio finance chairman, and donated $160,000 to a joint fundraising committee that aided Trump’s election, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported.
He is very active in Cleveland’s vibrant Irish American community, so much so that the city’s most important Irish organization, the Mayo Society, named Crawford as its Person of the Year in 2014.
This was the first time ever that the society had bestowed the honor on someone with other than Mayo roots.
“I think it’s a wonderful, wonderful decision by the Mayo Society to step out and decide to be more inclusive here. There are other great counties in Ireland. I think it gives the Mayo Society the opportunity to reach out to a broader group of individuals that, in one way or another, have contributed to the Irish sense of themselves,” Crawford said at the time.
“I think they made the right decision in picking a Corkman I have to say,” he added, more than a little tongue in cheek.
Mr. Crawford played a central role in the restoration of Cleveland’s Irish Cultural Garden and spoke at the opening of the garden alongside then taoiseach, Enda Kenny.
His company, Park-Ohio Holdings, according an Irish Times report last year, provides supply chain management services and engineered products. It employs about 6,000 people in more than twenty countries, including Ireland, and has annual revenues of $1.3 billion.
“Company records list him as a director of eight active Irish companies including Ballybeg Finance Company of Dublin, Iega Industrial Equipment Group and Park-Ohio European Holding Company,” the report stated.
Mr. Crawford’s Irish business interests are said to be a reason why his vetting by U.S. government officials, a painstaking process for most nominees seeking appointment to diplomatic roles, was taking so long, the Times report added.
Crawford’s appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee should be more or less a formality, or as near to a formality as is possible in the nation’s capital these days.
He certainly has the support of Ohio’s two senators as the Plain Dealer reported.
“I am always happy to see a fellow Clevelander nominated to serve and I wish him luck,” said a statement from Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown at the time of the nomination announcement.
Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman also issued a statement of congratulation.
“He is a good friend and will serve our country well in this role,” said Portman.