SHANNON Airport had a warm welcome for a familiar face when US ambassador Dan Rooney visited the airport while on a two-day visit to the region last week.
Accompanied by his wife Patricia, the ambassador called in on US immigration and customs officials based at the airport and also met with American military personnel passing through in transit.
And if Christmas shopping was on his mind, Ambassador Rooney was one of the first visitors to the newly renovated duty free shopping area at The Loop.
Shannon Airport laid on separate music receptions for Mr Rooney and his wife during the visit, with piper Pat Murphy from the Tulla Pipe Band and harpist Elaine Hogan, an entertainer with Shannon Heritage, playing for them in the airport’s transit lounge.
Acting airport director Niall McCarthy commented: “It was a great privilege to have the US ambassador and his wife at Shannon Airport”.
“Mr Rooney has been a wonderful supporter of Shannon Airport since his appointment as US ambassador in 2009 and was, in fact, here on the very first day of US preclearance operations in August of that year. Last year, he also jointly announced with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano the expansion of preclearance services for private aircraft.
“Beyond his support over the years for Shannon, he is one of the greatest members of the Irish diaspora, having co-founded with Sir Anthony O’Reilly in 1976 the Ireland Funds, which has so far raised over €300m for various programmes in Ireland and abroad. He was a hugely popular choice as Irish ambassador in 2009 and his devotion to the role over the past two years has been incredible considering his business commitments, not least as owner of the famous Pittsburgh Steelers American football team.”
“We value his support for Shannon so highly and it was an honour again to have him here and have the opportunity to discuss with him, in particular, the potential for US preclearance facilities at Shannon. He and his wife Patricia will always have the warmest of welcomes here at Shannon,” Mr McCarthy added.
On his visit to the region, Mr Rooney also hosted a coffee reception at Dromoland Castle for people from Limerick and the Mid-West who have taken part on US Government exchange programmes, including the prestigious Fulbright and Mitchell scholars programmes.
Designed to foster mutual understanding between Ireland and the United States, alumni hosted by the ambassador included academics and civil servants as well as people working with NGOs, in the arts and in the media.