US Ambassador to Ireland appointment held up by row

Near gridlock in the US Congress has delayed the appointment of the country’s ambassador to Ireland, certainly for weeks, potentially for months.

Kevin O’Malley, a Missouri lawyer, was expected to be confirmed as ambassador by the Senate on Thursday. He would have been expected to land in Ireland within days to take up a post vacant for more than a year and a half.

However, this and a raft of other diplomatic appointments were held up by a spat over the confirmation of the ambassador to Russia.

The Senate is now on a break for five weeks, with no date set for the confirmation of the other ambassadors.

In Washington, Ireland is seen as one of the more important unfilled diplomatic posts. This despite the fact that President Barack Obama failed for so long to name a replacement for Dan Rooney, who stepped down in December 2012.

This is not least because Ireland and its tax system, so attractive to US multinationals, is currently front and centre of a debate over corporate taxation.

Mr Obama, in a recent speech, criticised companies that become “magically Irish”, a reference to tax inversion.

Mr O’Malley was due to be confirmed along with several other ambassadors, including John Tefft as envoy to Russia.

However, late on Thursday, a Republican senator from Wyoming, Mike Enzi, objected, citing his opposition to a year-old rule limiting filibusters on presidential nominations. Mr Tefft was eventually confirmed by voice vote. The rest of the appointments, including that of Mr O’Malley, have been left in limbo.

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