Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney was honored as one of the 2013 Presidential Distinguished Service Award recipients for Irish Abroad. Rooney is one of 10 recipients to receive the honor, with his presented to him by Ireland's President Michael D. Higgins for his contribution to Peace, Reconciliation and Development.
"All of these people have rendered distinguished service to our nation and helped to build our reputation around the globe," said Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs & Trade, Eamon Gilmore T.D. "Their contribution is immeasurable."
The award, which was established following the 2011 Global Irish Economic Forum, is presented to Irish citizens or those of Irish descent who live outside of the Island of Ireland. Rooney, the US Ambassador to Ireland from July 2009-December 2012, helped to foster peace in the country during his reign as Ambassador, and prior to that through his work with the Ireland Fund.
"I am very humbled to receive this because so many people were involved with bringing peace to Ireland," said Rooney. "It's not just what I did. It's what so many people did to bring the peace over there."
Rooney helped to lead both sides to work on establishing the "Good Friday Agreement," a major political development in the Northern Ireland peace process in 1998. While there is still work to be done, Rooney is pleased to see how far the country has come.
"It's just great. It's a real plus," said Rooney. "It's not finished. There are some splinter groups that get back to violence. But the Good Friday Agreement, the people accepted this agreement and changed in that they let it be known they did not like the violence, that is was wrong, and you had to approach things through a peaceful manner. On a whole it's worked. They have really done well."
While in Ireland serving as Ambassador, Rooney visited all 32 counties in the country, including in the North, meeting with politicians, media, business people and at town hall meetings. They were visits that weren't just well received, but showed the commitment Rooney had to bringing the country together as one.
"The idea of the visits to the 32 counties was to let the people know that America cared," said Rooney. "We wanted to do the right thing. I would have a town hall meeting where everyone was invited and we would have good discussions and not everyone agreed with each other, but we worked through a lot of issues."