Critics blast ‘elitist’ US-Ireland Alliance for $1.2M Oscar party bill
American and Irish government money funds huge party expenses
Higgins added that the current recession in Ireland and the cuts in educational spending make the Irish government’s investment in the Mitchell Scholarships questionable.
“There is a major crisis here of cuts in public services. We have massive problems about how the government is bailing out banks and cutting the wages of working people,” he said.
“If there’s $26.7 million going there’s plenty of needs in our own education system where it would be better deployed.”
Seamus Boyle, the national president of the AOH in the U.S., told the Irish Voice that he did not believe Congress should participate in funding the scholarships.
“Congress should not support Trina Vargo, the head of the US-Ireland Alliance, in her efforts because she, as far as I can see, does not support the Irish immigrant in this country,” said Boyle, referring to a controversial opinion piece Vargo penned for The Irish Times in 2008 in which she likened legalizing the Irish undocumented in the U.S. to putting “lipstick on a pig.”
“She hand picks the Irish things she wants to get involved with, and anything she does support is for the rich and famous it seems,” Boyle added.
Boyle said that many Irish organizations sponsor educational visits to Ireland, citing the AOH program the Irish Way, which sponsors American students in Irish colleges.
“After they study in Ireland they all make written reports. They don’t cost anywhere near the kind of money that the US-Ireland Alliance is talking about,” he said.
“No one has a say about who these hand picked people are, what they do or what happens to them. So I don’t think they should have any matching funds from our government.”
In defense of her organization Vargo countered that the expenditure of almost $200,000 annually for the pre-Oscar party in Los Angeles was a good investment for Ireland.
“On average $200,000 is spent on this event,” she told the Sunday Tribune. “A portion of the funding comes from Culture Ireland, the Film Board and I raise additional funding from private sources.
“Again, compared to comparable events, this is a low price. The head of the National Endowment for the Arts told me he couldn't believe that we do it for only that cost.”
Vargo added, “You must also recognize the value and profile it brings to people in the industry. Two Irish singers got recording contracts because of our event.”
Mayo TD (member of Irish Parliament) Michael Ring went on Ireland’s top-rated radio show hosted by Pat Kenny last week to express his opposition to the funding.
"That $26.7 million would build four schools in Mayo," he said. “Somebody's priorities are very wrong to be giving away $26.7 million of Irish money when we can't afford it."
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