Irish civil servant appointed EU ambassador to Washington
IN major diplomatic coup for Ireland, one of the country's most senior EU civil servants has been formally announced as the European Union's new ambassador to Washington.
David O'Sullivan (61), who is currently serving as the chief operating officer of the EU's foreign service arm, the External Action Service, will take up his prestigious key role shortly.
He follows in the steps of another Irish man – former Taoiseach John Bruton who held the prestigious post from 2004-2009. In the post Mr Bruton met the US president, members of Congress, and staged meetings with high-profile business leaders on the importance of EU-US trade and the creation of jobs.
Mr O'Sullivan, the only nominee for the position, will also have an important role to play when he moves to Washington. He takes over from Portuguese official Joao Vale de Almeida at a time of delicate and heightened diplomatic talks regarding Ukraine and EU-US trade.
Catherine Ashton, vice-president of the European Commission, announced the appointment yesterday.
Ms Ashton said that "David's well-known talent, energy and expertise" made him "the ideal candidate" to take forward the EU's work in Washington DC.
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore has previously commended Mr O'Sullivan as having "an outstanding track record" in the European institutions, having held a succession of very senior positions, describing him as "a very good friend of Ireland".
Mr O'Sullivan's appointment was welcomed by MEP Mairead McGuinness, who said there was "great potential" in terms of investment and jobs.
She warned that certain aspects of discussions will have to be monitored carefully, adding: "At times over the last number of years it looked as though there were risks too far for Ireland and the EU side in terms of yielding too much in aspects to do with food and agriculture. To this end, the appointment of someone of the calibre of David O'Sullivan, with his proven track record in diplomacy and knowledge of agriculture and food, is a very positive step."
Married with two children, Mr O'Sullivan speaks several languages including German, French and Japanese, which he learned during a diplomatic posting to Tokyo.
In an interview on the European Commission website, Mr O'Sullivan said EU membership had enabled Ireland to emerge from the shadow of our troubled relationship with the UK. He said it helped us find a clearer national identity, through which we can have an active role in Europe and globally.
An economics and sociology graduate of Trinity College, Mr O'Sullivan joined the EU Commission from the Department of Foreign Affairs in 1979 and rose to become one of the EU's most senior civil servants.