Pittsburgh Steelers chairman Dan Rooney (84) had strong links with Newry
ONE of American football's most powerful and popular figures Dan Rooney, who has died at the age of 84, has strong family roots to Newry.
He was most closely associated with NFL side the Pittsburgh Steelers, which had been founded by his father Art, and in 2000 Dan Rooney was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Under Rooney, two stadiums were built in Pittsburgh, securing their place in a small market where they are sporting kings.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell called Rooney “one of the finest men in the history of our game,” adding that his “dedication to the game, to the players and the coaches, to his beloved Pittsburgh, and to Steelers fans everywhere was unparalleled.”
But Rooney was equalled lauded in Newry, where his great great grandfather James Rooney was born in March 1829.
Dan Rooney was a frequent visitor to the city, where he and his wife Patricia were often hosted by close friend and businessman Feargal McCormack, managing partner of the PKF-FPM accountancy practice.
He told the Irish News: "Dan Rooney was an inspirational leader and friend of Ireland and Newry. May he rest in peace."
Mr McCormack recalled his "delight and excitement" on St Patrick's Day 2009 when then US President Barack Obama announced at The White House that Dan Rooney would be the new US Ambassador to Ireland.
Indeed when FPM Chartered Accountants opened their new offices at Dromalane Mill in Newry in 2004, they named a room in honour of Dan Rooney in recognition of the significant contribution he had made to the economic regeneration of Newry and indeed Ireland and in developing positive relationships between Ireland and America.
And in recognition of his contribution of the socio-economic life of Newry, in 2000 Rooney became only the third person in history to be presented with the Charter of Newry, which was established by the King of Ireland in the 12th Century.
Prior to that, along with the then MP Seamus Mallon, Dan Rooney founded the Newry Pittsburgh Partnership in 1990.
The Newry/Pittsburgh Partnership was a joint venture between Enterprise Newry Limited (comprising local business and community leaders) and the Irish Institute of Pittsburgh (IIP) to encourage corporate interests in Pittsburgh to consider Newry as a potential location for international investment and entry to the European market.
As part of the Newry Pittsburgh Partnership the Rooney Fellowship ($250k endowment) was created and sponsored by the American Ireland Fund honouring Dan Rooney, which enables a student following a Higher Education Course in Business and Management at the Southern Regional College, to study at the Universities of Duquesne and Pittsburgh in the United States.
There have now been sixteen Rooney Fellows, and each year until recently, Dan Rooney and his wife Patricia travelled to Newry in June to present the Rooney Fellowship Scholarship, and also visit the FPM Newry offices.
Some years ago Feargal McCormack delved into Dan Rooney’s family tree roots with Newry, where his great great grandfather, James Rooney, was born on March 11 1829. He left the area when the foundry closed in Edward Street in 1846 and went to work at an ironworks in Wales.
James Rooney’s son Arthur, who was born in Wales in 1850, married in Ebbw Vale and worked as an ironruffer there.
Rooney’s grandfather Daniel Rooney was born to Arthur and his wife Catherine in 1874, and emigrated to America, where with his Irish wife, he owned a pub and had nine children, one of whom was Arthur J Rooney, Daniel Rooney’s father.