The government is either brain dead or victim of an incredible snow job at a time when other organizations such as the American Ireland Fund took the noble and correct step of refusing any money from Ireland given the extreme nature of the economic emergency there.
It is also is a terrible decision on another level given that there is no more divisive figure in Irish America than Trina Vargo, the woman behind the Mitchell Scholarship program run by the U.S.-Ireland Alliance that brings a dozen students to Ireland every year.
Worse, the name of George Mitchell, the fabled peace envoy to Ireland who helped create the Good Friday Agreement, is tied in to the massive criticism and damage being done through her divisive tactics in the Irish American community.
Vargo has made a career nowadays of bad-mouthing Irish American organizations to everyone in Ireland and elsewhere, and denying there is an Irish American identity at all. She has apparently refused to attend the upcoming Irish diaspora conference in Dublin on those grounds.
Vargo, for instance, has made it clear in several op-eds in The Irish Times that she believes Irish undocumented should not be helped. Even though the undocumented issue had nothing whatsoever to do with her, she decided to attack anyway.
She wrote that helping such people would be akin to putting “lipstick on a pig” -- this was her actual quote.
After her comments the actress Fionnula Flanagan withdrew from a U.S.-Ireland Alliance event, stating, “I must respectfully decline to be honored by your organization which appears to have taken such a strong position against the most vulnerable of my countrymen.”
More recently Vargo emailed an article (before it was published) by Niall Stanage in The Irish Times that was highly critical again of the Irish American community and sent it to every member of the Irish Parliament, noting that she believed that her organization alone stood for Irish America.
Vargo noted in her email, “I’m happy to say that the U.S.-Ireland Alliance is not part of the problem Stanage refers to, but rather is part of the solution. “
Indeed. She seems to think she has a lock on what the Irish American community is -- dirt in her eyes apparently -- and now the Irish government appears to be agreeing with her. How they reward such behavior by giving her $25 million beggars belief.
On any objective criteria it is a complete waste of money. How many thousands of American students could be brought to Ireland for such money rather than the privileged few that Vargo brings? Notre Dame sends three times as many students to Irish colleges every year, as do many other colleges, and don’t get a dime for it.
At a time when Irish education is in crisis because of lack of funds, the decision to give $25 million to an elitist American group -- on top of $3 million -- already given smacks of complete and utter myopia.
There are many Irish American groups in the U.S. in dire need. As we reveal this week the Irish immigrant centers are suffering because of lowered contributions.
How can the Irish government with a straight face offer $25 million to one of the most divisive people in the community and allow undocumented Irish in deep need to lose vital services?
It is high time the Irish government rethought this issue. Irish Americans will eagerly await a response. This has gone far enough.