Critics blast ‘elitist’ US-Ireland Alliance for $1.2M Oscar party bill
American and Irish government money funds huge party expenses
A report that the US-Ireland Alliance, which is funded by the U.S. and Irish governments and by private donations, spent at least $1.2 million in entertainment expenses over the past five years has caused shockwaves in both Ireland and the U.S.
The US-Ireland Alliance, came under scrutiny for its lavish spending from Ireland’s Sunday Tribune last weekend. In recent weeks the organization also hit the headlines after securing a controversial $26.7 million investment from the Irish government for a scholarship fund named after former Senator George Mitchell for visiting American students.
Trina Vargo, head of the US-Ireland Alliance, confirmed to the Sunday Tribune that the organization has spent about $200,000 every year on a pre-Oscar party in Los Angeles. Vargo, a former foreign policy adviser to Senator Edward Kennedy, earns $175,000 a year as the organization’s head.
Vargo also disclosed that $250,000 had been spent on a suite at the exclusive five-star K Club in Co. Kildare for the Ryder Cup in 2006. The estimated cost of corporate entertainment organized by the alliance for all the events was $1,271,000.
The extravagant spending and the rising concern about what exactly the Irish and U.S. governments are receiving in return for their investment has some critics expressing doubts about the alliance’s aims and objectives.
In recent weeks an increasing number of Irish politicians have been raising concerns about the viability the organizations marquee project, the 0 million George Mitchell Scholarship Fund, in honor of the Irish peace broker, in light of steep educational cutbacks and the ongoing recession in Ireland.
Socialist Member of the European Parliament for Dublin Joe Higgins told the Irish Voice on Tuesday, “It’s important to note that the Irish government is producing matching funding of $26.7 million over five years. But this program sounds elitist and massively excessive when you consider it’s actually just for 12 American students.
“When we did our own analysis of the rough costs we certainly couldn’t account for 4 million Euro a year it’s costing for such a program. That’s a major issue that needs to be addressed if Irish taxpayer funds are used.”
Higgins added that no answers were forthcoming from the US-Ireland Alliance as to how the money would be disbursed, and how 12 students a year could cost $5.3 million.
“You just cannot assess the impact this program will have,” said Higgins. “The whole idea that you’re spending $26.7 million on the off chance that one of these students may become the CEO of a multinational corporation and discriminate in favor of coming to Ireland in the future, to say the least it’s tenuous.”
But Higgins didn’t just doubt the future impact the Mitchell Scholarship Fund would have on Ireland. He also believes it was poorly conceived.
“I doubt the whole concept of this program,” said Higgins. “I’m very much in favor of students coming and going to Ireland to study, but not in an elitist private capacity.”
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