Irish power waning on Capitol Hill as Hillary Clinton calls emergency meeting
Republicans in House seek to block Irish agenda and funds
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has become deeply frustrated with the hold-up in Irish funds for the International Fund for Ireland (IFI) in the Republican controlled US House of Representatives amid clear indications that Ireland is being targeted by some Republicans on the right.
Clinton convened an unprecedented meeting between top State Department officials and the Irish Embassy and personnel from the Northern Ireland office in Washington last week after complaints were made about the holdup in IFI funding over St. Patrick's Day.
$15 million in funding for peace projects in Northern Ireland is being held up. TheIrish E3 immigration visa bill is also in limbo as Republicans continue to oppose it.
The atmosphere at the State Department / Government meeting was described as one of "deep frustration" as both sides battle with the reality of the post Ted Kennedy /Chris Dodd era when most Irish projects on Capitol Hill such as the IFI were usually passed through easily.
What has emerged from those meetings is a worrying sign that Ireland no longer carries the same clout in Washington in the post Kennedy/Dodd era and that Republican right wingers are seizing on the Irish funding issue to hold up State Department initiatives.
Some leading Irish and American figures in Washington are privately urging the Irish Government to step into the modern era and hire full time lobbyists on Capitol Hill like most other governments do to further their agenda.
"Some Republicans are using Ireland as the poster child for no overseas aid," said a leading Irish figure on Capitol Hill. "The Irish agenda is being targeted."
They say that diplomats alone are no longer able to carry the fight in the absence of a Kennedy or a Dodd on Irish issues. There are worrying signs of an Irish backlash.
Even the attack by Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the powerful head of the House Foreign Relations Committee on the proposed Che Guevara statue in Galway where she has called on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to stop, has fueled fears that Ireland is being singled out.
The recent visit of former speaker Nancy Pelosi and a congressional delegation to Dublin has cemented links between Ireland and the Democrats but it is still a long shot that Democrats can regain control of the house in November's election.
Ros-Lehinten and Congressman Jason Chaffetz(R-Utah) are seen as the two main protagonists blocking the International Fund money.
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