Steelers owner Rooney officially becomes U.S. ambassador to Ireland

WASHINGTON -- The Senate confirmed Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney as U.S. ambassador to Ireland on Thursday.

The nomination, announced by President Barack Obama on St. Patrick's Day, was approved by voice vote.

Rooney was a lifelong Republican who backed Obama over Hillary Rodham Clinton during Pennsylvania's Democractic presidential primary last year. Rooney later campaigned for Obama in western Pennsylvania and helped him win the state in the November election.

In the 1970s, Rooney helped start the American Ireland Fund, an organization that has raised millions for advocacy of peace and education in the European nation.

Rooney's father, Arthur J. Rooney, founded the Steelers in 1933. Dan Rooney took over the presidency of the team in 1975 and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000.

Last season, Rooney's Steelers won their NFL-record sixth Super Bowl championship.

The "Rooney Rule," which requires any team with a head-coaching vacancy to interview at least one minority candidate, was developed by an NFL committee that Rooney chaired. Rooney also has participated in labor negotiations between the league and players.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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