Brian Burns Named New Irish Ambassador

Seen at the Ireland-U.S. Council’s 2017 Winter Meeting in Palm Beach, Florida were (from left) Shane Stephens, Consul General for Ireland for the Southeast United States; Michael J. Gibbons, Chairman of the 2017 Winter Meeting; Brian W. Stack, President of the Ireland-U.S. Council; Guest Speaker Brian Burns, the next United States Ambassador to Ireland.

By Olivia O’Mahony, Editorial Assistant
April / May 2017

Philanthropist, businessman, and Irish America Hall of Fame member Brian Burns was officially announced as President Donald Trump’s appointment for ambassador to Ireland in January. He was tapped for the position in November, well before Trump’s inauguration on January 17 and must still undergo a lengthy approval process.

Eighty-year-old Massachusetts-native Burns is the chairman of BF Enterprises, Inc., a publicly-owned real estate holding and development company, and is currently based in Florida. He is the grandson of Irish immigrants originally from Co. Kerry, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013, alongside former vice-president Joe Biden, for extensive work in aiding Irish causes over the course of his career. In 1963, he became the first, and to-date youngest ever, president of the American Ireland Fund, a position for which he was appointed by John F. Kennedy.

He is the owner of the largest Irish art collection in the United States, works from which have circulated throughout Ireland and the U.S. He is also the principal benefactor of the John J. Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collections at Boston College, opened in 1986 and named for his father, and established the Burns Visiting Scholar in Irish Studies program at the college.

In a Boston Globe interview, Burns recalled the moment the then-president-elect made his Irish ambassadorial choice clear, approaching Burns and his wife, Eileen, at a weekday dinner at his exclusive Palm Beach club. “[The president] gave Eileen a hug and then said, ‘Brian, are you ready to go to Ireland?’” he said. “It’s the fulfilment of a dream that I never thought would happen.”

Burns is excited about the possibility of moving into the American ambassadorial residence in Phoenix Park, Dublin, and hopes to invite the president to visit Ireland, perhaps to meet at his luxury golf course in Doonbeg, County Clare. ♦

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