A dispute has arisen about evidence given earlier by US Ireland-Alliance president Trina Vargo to the Irish Foreign Affairs Committee in Dublin.
The Alliance has come under pressure to explain why it needs massive Irish government funding of up to $20 million at a time when the Irish educational sector is experiencing massive cutbacks on special needs children, school closures and deep cuts in education spending.
The Alliance sends 12 students a year to Ireland in what is called the Mitchell Scholarship program but its president has also become a controversial figure for attacking Irish American organizations and failing to show if any of the awardees have subsequently gone on to play any significant role whatever on Irish issues either in Ireland or the U.S. after they leave.
Senator Mark Daly who asked that the original Foreign Affairs meeting be convened ,has attacked Vargo’s testimony as misleading and her stance against the Irish government helping Irish undocumented as unhelpful. She had previously referred to helping Irish undocumented as similar to putting lipstick on pigs.
Daly stated “The Chairman along with members of the Foreign Affairs Committee and officials present at yesterday's meeting have confirmed that a press release sent to members of the Houses of the Oireachtas by Ms Trina Vargo, head of the US Ireland Alliance was misleading and inaccurate in its portrayal of aspects of the Foreign Affairs Committee meeting.
“It is unfortunate that on Ms Vargo insistence this meeting was held in private, therefore no minutes were permitted to be taken and no members of the press were allowed to attend, despite a request by all member of the committee that it be held as a formal meeting.
“Ms Vargo had to be asked by the Chairman on more than one occasion to refrain from mentioning persons not present, including a senior Irish Civil servant she indicated was engaged in 'cute hoor' behaviour when it came to the issue of funding for Irish American organisations.
Members of the committee also expressed their concerns in relation to the undocumented Irish in the United States. Irish American organisations have stated that Ms Vargo’s views that no aid should be given to the undocumented Irish, unquestionably hinders the current Irish Government’s efforts.
“Ms Vargo, was unable to substantiate with research her recent comments regarding the number of undocumented Irish in the US. Those involved in debating this issue must insure that the figures they quote are accurate. Misquoting a figure by 40,000 is unacceptable for somebody purporting to represent the interests of US-Irish relations.
“Ms Vargo also declined to indicate whether or not she would accede to a request that the US-Ireland Alliance income and expenditure accounts, including all itemised expenses from the last five years, be made available to the chair of the public accounts committee.
“This follows concerns over the expenditure of nearly $200,000 on an annual event in LA to coincide with the Oscars. As the Irish taxpayer will be giving $20 million, over time to a fund controlled by the US Ireland Alliance, it is important that any and all issues should be investigated.,“Daly concluded.