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Saturday 17 November 2018

US envoy to meet McAleese

JEROME REILLY

RICHARD Egan, the multimillionaire businessman and new US ambassador to Ireland, will present his credentials to President Mary McAleese tomorrow, while in a separate move US President George W Bush is sending one of his top White House advisers to the North in a bid to aid th

RICHARD Egan, the multimillionaire businessman and new US ambassador to Ireland, will present his credentials to President Mary McAleese tomorrow, while in a separate move US President George W Bush is sending one of his top White House advisers to the North in a bid to aid the ailing peace process.

Richard Haass will act as Mr Bush's special envoy, meeting unionist and nationalist parties on an information-gathering mission to help Washington propose solutions. He will meet Ulster Secretary John Reid in London on Monday before travelling to Belfast. US concerns over the arrests of three Irishmen, in Colombia, will form part of Mr Haass's agenda.

President Bush's nomination of Richard Egan cleared the final hurdle at full hearing of the US Senate last month and was one of the more difficult diplomatic appointments made by the new administration in Washington.

Despite uncompromising criticism from Senator Edward Kennedy after the nomination, the Democrats did finally approve Mr Egan's nomination.

Tomorrow's formalities at the Aras will end weeks of Democratic-led speculation in the US surrounding Mr Egan's suitability, though his nomination has been welcomed by Government sources here. During the nomination process, it emerged that Mr Egan's donations to Republican Party funds exceeded the limits of the Federal Election Commission. As a result, he faces a $36,700 fine for excessive contributions.

It also emerged that while serving in the US Marines, Mr Egan was discovered to be absent without leave and was sentenced to six months. However, he did receive an honourable discharge from the military. The papers also revealed an incident of car theft in his younger days for which he served a three-month jail sentence.

One of the reasons the Government has greeted Mr Egan's appointment with enthusiasm is his remarkable business credentials in the high-tech sector and his proven commitment in the past to the Irish economy. Mr Egan is the founder of EMC Corporation in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, and he established the Hopkinton Technology for Education Foundation.

To avoid any possible conflict of interest, Mr Egan will sell off more than $1m-worth of stock he holds in Irish companies, which include sea transport company Irish Continental Group; IFG, the financial services company; and Jury's Doyle Hotel Group.

In addition, Mr Egan owns some 30 million shares valued at approximately $545m in EMC, which specialises in data storage and employs nearly 2,000 in Ireland. The company started operations in Ovens, Co Cork, in 1988 and has a strong sales presence in Dublin.

In a letter to the US State Department earlier this summer, Mr Egan wrote that he intends to step down from the EMC board to avoid potential conflicts in relation to the company in Ireland. Mr Egan, who has family connections with Westmeath, had a distinguished career at MIT, Honeywell and Intel before he founded EMC.

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