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Trina Vargo

US-Ireland Alliance CEO claims no Irish taxpayer money spent on Mitchell Scholars

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Trina Vargo

The US-Ireland Alliance president Trina Vargo has denied any Irish government money has gone to pay for the Mitchell Scholarships -- even though Irish Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn admitted as much in January of 2012.

Vargo was responding to a call  by Kerry-based Irish Senator Mark Daly  for an inquiry into Irish government spending on the Mitchell Scholarships after Vargo slammed Prime Minister Enda Kenny for presenting a heritage certificate to Barack Obama for St.Patrick’s Day.

“The shop in Shannon Airport must have been out of leprechaun dolls and chunks of the auld sod,” Vargo wrote.

"I’m from an opposition party,” Daly told Irish Central, “but I was shocked and disgusted at the cheap attack. She is supposed to be promoting Irish and American links, here she is slamming an Irish leader.”He called for her to appear before the Joint Committee on Education.

In her blog on the US-Ireland Alliance site she also described Irish people as “horrified” at Irish Americans and said they were laughing at how Americans spent St.Patrick’s Day. She had previously described efforts to help irish undocumented as “putting lipstick on a pig.”

After Daly went public with his call, Vargo contacted Daly and stated no money from Irish taxpayers was going to Mitchell scholarships.

Here is her note to Daly;

"No Irish taxpayer money is being spent on the Mitchell Scholarship program.  None of my salary is being paid by the Irish taxpayer.  This information is available to Senator Daly as an annual audit is provided to the Minister of Education and laid before the Oireachtas.  Any suggestion to the contrary will be pursued.”  
Trina Vargo, president of the US-Ireland Alliance.  

However her comment that no Irish taxpayer money has been spent on Mitchell scholarships is directly contradicted by the Irish Minister for Education,
Here is the Statement by Rory Quinn Irish Education minister in January 2012 confirming they indeed do pay for the Mitchell Scholarships.

“The funding of the George Mitchell Scholarship Programme is a
reflection of the Government’s gratitude for the significant
contribution made by Senator Mitchell to the promotion of peace and
reconciliation on the island of Ireland. An Agreement was signed with
the US-Ireland Alliance in March 1999. An Irish Government endowment
of IR£2 million was subsequently paid into the Fund. The endowment was
to fund 2 scholarships of US$11,000 per year and to meet the
administrative costs associated with running the programme. A further
10 scholarships were funded annually under the George Mitchell
Scholarship Programme. The costs of these scholarships were met
through an endowment made by the British Government (2 scholarships
per year) and other private contributions and/or sponsorship
(including the US Government) secured by the US-Ireland Alliance.

"In 2003 a decision was made to rest the Fund for a period by not
making any disbursements in respect of scholarships from the income
generated from the Fund. Since 2003 the only charge against the income
from the Irish Government’s endowment has been in respect of audit and
investment advisory fees. The costs of the scholarships and
administration including salaries have been borne by the US-Ireland
Alliance from funds it has raised from other sources. This includes
several million dollars from the US Government.

"In 2007 a decision was taken to secure the long term viability of the
George Mitchell Scholarship Programme by increasing Ireland’s
contribution to the Fund for the programme by €20 million to be paid
over a number of years, conditional on matching funding being raised
by the US-Ireland Alliance. Such matching funding must not include
funding from public funds in Ireland or Northern Ireland.

"The George Mitchell Scholarship Fund (Amendment) Act 2010 was brought
into operation on 1st June 2010. Pursuant to the terms of the amending
legislation and new agreement, my Department paid €1,493,507 into the
George Mitchell Scholarship Fund on 30 July 2010. To date this is the
only payment made by my Department into this Fund since the initial
endowment of IR£2 million in 1999. The Mitchell scholars receive an
allowance of about $12,700 towards living expenses and a travel
allowance of up to $2,300. Their fees and accommodation costs are met
by the colleges they attended."

So 3.4 million euros, close to $4.7 million of Irish taxpayer money has been allocated to the US-Ireland Alliance. A further 20 million Euros or $26 million is also given for the 12 students per year that are sent to Ireland.

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