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Dan Rooney resigns as ambassador to Ireland

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers chairman and co-owner Dan Rooney has stepped down as the US ambassador to Ireland, a post he assumed after backing President Obama’s presidential campaign despite being a longtime Republican.

The embassy in Dublin said Rooney, 80, resigned Friday and returned to the United States. Press officer John Murphy said Rooney met with Ireland’s prime minister, Enda Kenny, and President Michael Higgins during a final round of engagements this week.

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Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore hosted a farewell dinner for Rooney on Wednesday, but news of his imminent departure was kept secret, even though the resignation had been expected for some time.

Rooney, the grandson of an Irish immigrant, supported Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary and then campaigned for him.

In an op-ed article published Friday in The Irish Times and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Rooney said the relationship between the United States and Ireland is as strong as ever.

He says the countries’ common heritage and values creates a ‘‘shared kinship.’’

It’s not clear what future role Rooney will have with the Pittsburgh Steelers. On Saturday, Rooney and his wife, Patricia, reportedly plan to attend a memorial service in Milton, Mass., for their daughter Rita, who died Dec. 1.

His son and team president Art Rooney II told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that ‘‘we really haven’t talked about what he wants to do when he gets back. We’ll talk about that after the season.’’

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