New York GOP Congressman Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security and a long-time champion supporter of Irish causes on Capitol Hill, has written a letter to
Congresswoman Kay Granger of Texas, the GOP chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State-Foreign Operations, urging the re-instatement of U.S. funds for the International Fund for Ireland.
Earlier this year the House and Senate voted to rescind the annual U.S. contribution to the fund, which for the coming year would have totaled more than $17 million.
Continuing U.S. support of the fund has been a source of controversy for some time – among those against providing further assistance is Trina Vargo, head of the U.S.-Ireland Alliance, who is seeking to secure the U.S. IFI money for her Mitchell Scholarship program -- but King feels the IFI is still a valued tool in helping to secure peace and prosperity in Northern Ireland.
“For many years, the United States has been at the forefront of promoting peace in Northern Ireland. We urge you to continue this effort by supporting $17 million for the International Fund for Ireland (IFI) in (fiscal year) 2012,” King’s letter, released on Tuesday, stated.
“The United States has demonstrated its commitment to peace in Northern Ireland through high-level negotiations, diplomacy and grassroots peace-building efforts. Some of this work has resulted in high-profile achievements, such as the Belfast (Good Friday) and Hillsborough Castle Agreements. While we are proud of the advancements, there is still much work to be done.”
King also pointed out that though the peace process is thriving, dissidents intent on causing trouble still exist.
“Recently, an increase in violence has shown that the wounds of war have not healed. Dissidents have been targeting police officers and community courthouses following the devolution of the policing and justice systems in the North achieved through the historic Hillsborough Agreement,” King said.
“Overall, the number of bombings and attempted bombings has doubled over the past year. The surge in hostility aims to derail what has been achieved throughout the peace process.”
King says it is important for the U.S. to keep supporting the fund which, he said, “unites people on both sides of the political divide through joint grassroots projects and programming.”
“The United States has maintained support for the IFI for many years, and deserves considerable credit for the program’s success. With 35 million Americans of Irish descent, our ties to Ireland are strong, and our interests are well-served by remaining deeply engaged in the peace process,” he wrote.
“Additionally, since the IFI is a multinational effort, it is a bargain for the United States because only a small investment from us goes a great deal further when combined with the funds received from other countries.”
The International Fund for Ireland was established as an independent international organization by the British and Irish governments in 1986, and receives contributions from the U.S., the European Union, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. More than $1 billion in funding has been issued to date, supporting over 5,800 projects throughout Ireland.