LONDON -- The new U.S. ambassador to Ireland formally took office Friday in a ceremony with Irish President Mary Robinson in Dublin amid controversy in the Irish media over his ability to do the job.
William Fitzgerald, 82, took over the post of ambassador from Richard Moore, who returned home to participate in President Bush's re-election campaign.
The Irish government had no comment on the controversy surrounding Fitzgerald's appointment, which might have gone ahead without a political hitch if it were not for remarks he made on Ireland's June 18 referendum vote backing the Maastricht treaty on European union.
Fitzgerald reported the results of the Irish referendum to a U.S. Senate committee in Washington two weeks before the nationwide vote took place, apparently mixing up opinion surveys with the actual referendum.
There have been press comments about his advanced age and allegations that Ireland had been reduced in status diplomatically by the United States.
'Relations between the U.S. and Ireland are as strong as ever and there's no reason to believe those will change just because we've changed ambassadors,' Treacy said. 'We're learning in America not to discriminate against people because of age or sex or religion or anything else,' he said.