Surrounded by top House Democrats and family members, former Rep. Claire Cronin swears her oath as U.S. ambassador to Ireland on the House rostrum on Wednesday afternoon. Attorney William Bonaccorso (left of Cronin) administers the oath. [Sam Doran/SHNS
By Sam Doran
State House News Service
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JAN. 19, 2022.....As she prepares to trade the Massachusetts House for the U.S. Embassy in Ireland, and suburban Easton for a grand mansion set on hundreds of acres in Dublin, former Rep. Claire Cronin took her oath of office inside the State House on Wednesday as the new U.S. ambassador to the Emerald Isle.
"We have such strong relationships between the United States and Ireland, as it is. And it's the relationships that are built on long ancestral ties. It's my ancestral home," Cronin told the News Service after a farewell ceremony in the House Chamber, adding that the transition is "bittersweet" but she looks forward to her new "sacred responsibility."
Confirmed a month ago by the U.S. Senate, the Easton Democrat and longtime supporter of President Joseph Biden said she is excited to get to know the people in Ireland, build on the ties between the two nations, and create more opportunities for trade and investment overseas.
Of tensions around Brexit between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom, Cronin said: "I think people are coming to the table and talking, and I think they'll continue to do so, and any part I can be helpful in that, I'd like to do that."
"Certainly the United States -- President Biden and our Congress -- has expressed strong support of the Good Friday Agreement," Cronin said, referring to the 1998 accord between Ireland and the UK over governance of Northern Ireland. "And with the UK leaving the [European Union], it'll be a top priority to make sure that the gains of the Good Friday Agreement are maintained. It will also be a top priority, of course, to still continue to work together as partners attempting to defeat COVID, the pandemic. We will certainly work together on shared priorities around cybersecurity and climate change. And first and foremost, always, will be to protect the safety and security of Americans in Ireland."
Around 70 lawmakers and 35 staff and guests were in the House Chamber for Cronin's hail-and-farewell, one of the larger crowds to assemble there since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Before she was chosen as majority leader in 2021 by Speaker Ronald Mariano, one of Cronin's first big moments in the Beacon Hill spotlight came through her work on a 2017-2018 conference committee reconciling different versions of a major criminal justice reform bill.
Emceeing the short ceremony Wednesday, Mariano recounted working on that conference panel with Cronin, whom he "did not know that well" at the time, and tied the skills she displayed in their closed-door talks to her qualifications as an American diplomat.
"It was a very unique criminal justice conference committee, because we had one chair who was from Brockton, and the chair sitting across from her was from Newton," Mariano said, apparently referring to Sen. Cindy Creem of Newton. "And if you don't think there are two different views of crime in Brockton and Newton, you really don't know Massachusetts. So as we began the process, I didn't think we'd ever get a bill that we could live with, because we had a huge discrepancy in points of view. But Claire's talents -- her ability to negotiate -- she displayed a masterful touch in getting people to see her point of view and move to the common ground.
"She referenced lived experiences from her district," Mariano continued, "things that she had seen in her time in the courtroom, all of them leading us to a solution to the problems that were facing the commonwealth then. You know, these are the traits that I'm sure when President Biden was looking for an ambassador to Ireland, Claire popped right into his mind, and here she is.
Cronin resigned her House seat effective 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, the third Beacon Hill lawmaker to vacate their seat this session.
As she bid farewell to her colleagues on the House floor Wednesday, she recounted her work with fellow lawmakers as chair of the Judiciary Committee to enact criminal justice reforms, policing reforms, and women's health care access legislation.
Cronin recalled listening to farewell speeches from two former colleagues, who like her resigned their House seats mid-term "to pursue careers outside the Legislature," and how they spoke highly of then-Majority Leader Mariano.
"I remember thinking to myself, I've got to get to know this guy. And luckily for me, I did," said Cronin, who described working with Mariano as similar to playing catch with baseball great Babe Ruth.
"To sum up my nine years in the House: I love the House. And I love the institution. I have great respect for this institution. It has been the honor of my lifetime to serve with all of you. So today, I'm leaving a place I love and a job I love for a chance to serve our country as the United States ambassador to Ireland," she said, adding that she will "be watching all of the good things ahead from afar."
Mariano touted his choice of Cronin as the first woman to serve as House majority leader in Massachusetts: "I'll tell ya, that was one of the best decisions that I've made as speaker," he said.
It is unclear when Mariano might reveal his pick for the next majority leader. And with no word on whether a special election will be called to fill Cronin's House seat, Brockton and Easton constituents in the 11th Plymouth District still do not know whether they will have representation in the House for the remainder of 2022.