Tuesday 18 September 2018

US's new ambassador unlikely to arrive here before 2019

Confusion: US President Donald Trump’s visit is not officially postponed. Photo: REUTERS
Confusion: US President Donald Trump’s visit is not officially postponed. Photo: REUTERS
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

The new US Ambassador to Ireland may not be officially appointed until early in the new year, it has emerged.

The news came as confusion over President Donald Trump's visit to Ireland continued - with US and Irish officials unable to say if the trip had been postponed.

However, as chaos reigned over the prospect of Mr Trump visiting Ireland, the Cabinet approved the appointment of Edward F Crawford as the US Ambassador to Ireland.

The White House was expected to officially nominate Mr Crawford as the US administration's candidate for the vacant embassy position yesterday afternoon - but again surprised Government officials by failing to release the name.

It is expected that the Trump administration will put the billionaire manufacturing mogul's name forward for nomination in the coming days. However, after Mr Crawford is nominated, he will have to go before the US Senate's Foreign Relations Committee where he will be grilled on his credentials.

It is unclear when these hearings will take place, but it is not expected that Mr Crawford's nomination will face serious resistance from Democratic Party politicians who oppose Mr Trump's regime.

The president’s man: Edward F Crawford’s family hail from Ireland and he is heavily involved in the Irish-US community
The president’s man: Edward F Crawford’s family hail from Ireland and he is heavily involved in the Irish-US community

Sworn

After the hearings, US senators will vote on the businessman's appointment, and if he is successful he will be sworn into office, most likely by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Once sworn in by the US administration, Mr Crawford will travel to Ireland where he will present his credentials to the Irish President.

Previous US ambassadorial appointments to Ireland took up to four months to be finalised - and the process around appointing Mr Crawford could stretch into the new year.

The Government is anxious to have the ambassador in place as soon as possible so as to improve relations between Ireland and the US.

The chaos surrounding Mr Trump's proposed visit has intensified calls for the appointment of an ambassador.

Yesterday, Government official could still not definitively say if the US president's visit was postponed.

Several queries to the White House also went unanswered.

White House Spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders caused confusion when she said details of the visit had not been finalised.

Confusion was further added to yesterday when the chief economist to the White House, Kevin Hassett, said he was "not convinced" Mr Trump's visit to Ireland had been called off.

"I know the president and [his chief of staff] General [John] Kelly are very eager to come to Ireland. I think we view Ireland as one of our closest and dearest allies, and if it doesn't work out this time I'm sure something will work out soon," Mr Hassett said.

"The thing I can say is that it's election season in the US and the visit - which I'm not convinced it absolutely won't happen yet, I checked into it last night - the visit was scheduled for right after the elections and there are a bunch of things that might have to happen that involve foreign trips for negotiating reasons and so on that are all budding up against how much he can spend coming to Ireland and Paris," he said.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the cancellation of Mr Trump's visit to Ireland shows the relationship between the two countries is "not functioning".

Mr Martin said the whole episode had been a "very unedifying experience".

However, he later welcomed news that the Cabinet had approved the appointment of a new US ambassador.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section