By Susan Falvella-Garraty
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A book has been written on how the Irish saved civilization, but the next scheduled ambassador to take up residence in Phoenix Park said Ireland saved his life.
At a Senate confirmation hearing for the Clinton administration’s designee to be U.S. ambassador in Dublin last week, Mike Sullivan told the committee that during the physical for his new post, a blockage was discovered near his heart.
"I had quintuple bypass surgery," said the former governor of Wyoming. "You see, I have already been blessed by Ireland," he added with his wife, Jane, sitting behind him in the wood-paneled hearing room in the U.S. Capitol.
Sullivan is recovering well from surgery performed over the summer. The strength of his handshake would make many a person wince. Even though his nomination was placed on a fast track, a White House official said the administration is only hopeful that final confirmation would be taken up by the full Senate before its Oct. 9 adjournment.
"It goes to show you how easy this nomination will go through considering how relatively quickly they got this committee hearing scheduled," the official said.
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Sullivan’s predecessor, Ambassador Jean Kennedy-Smith, was just a few office doors away during the nomination hearing. She attended the ceremony in honor of South African leader Nelson Mandela, who received the Congressional Gold Medal at the Capitol.
Sullivan was asked by a member of the committee about Kennedy-Smith’s sometimes "controversial" involvement in the Northern Ireland peace process. "I believe it will be the voices of moderation and peace that will prevail," he said. "The work of the next ambassador is to do whatever is necessary to help resolve this age-old conflict."
Ireland’s economy has gone from "potato chips to computer chips" said the acting chairman, Senator Gordon Smith, a Republican from Oregon. He asked how the roaring Celtic Tiger’s economy meshes with that of the United States.
"American companies have played an important role in that economy," Sullivan said, adding that it would be one of his important roles to encourage further growth as the two countries’ economic foundations intersect in the future.