There was a major attack on Irish America in the Irish Times last Saturday, purporting to be an insider view on how Irish America has been misleading the Irish government.
The article concludes by stating, “For too long official Ireland has allowed those who claim to speak for Irish America to lead it up the garden path. The path leads not to a bed of roses but to a dead end."
Really? So the Irish American involvement in the peace process was a bad thing? The outreach for a special envoy that led to George Mitchell, the visa for Gerry Adams that helped lead to an IRA ceasefire, the continuing efforts to help Ireland economically which will culminate this September in a gathering of over 100 Irish American business leaders in Dublin at a diaspora conference is all a mistake?
Pray who would make such assertions, and what kind of leadership do they envisage?
This is where it becomes interesting. The writer, Niall Stanage, is from the unionist tradition in Northern Ireland, educated at Oxford University. He wrote a book last year about the Obama campaign that savaged Irish Americans, and stated they had no clout whatever in American politics.
He has been setting himself up in recent years as an “expert” on Irish America, though truth be told he would be unrecognized by 99.9% of our community.
If this sounds like a script that the British government might be very happy to write then you get the message. Who is Stanage and where has he sprung from? Is his own background important here as Irish America adjusts to the post-peace process reality?
More to the point, who is aiding and abetting Stanage? That would be Trina Vargo, head of the U.S.-Ireland Alliance which sends a dozen or so well heeled American students to Ireland every ear on a rip-off of the Rhodes Scholar program, and gets millions from Ireland, Britain and the U.S. government for doing so. Vargo, a Portuguese American with little Irish heritage, latched on to the issue when she worked with Senator Edward Kennedy.
Even before Stanage's article ran, Vargo sent out an email to every politician in Ireland highlighting the piece, proclaiming that the old leadership in Irish America was over and she alone represented the new leadership.
Who is Trina Vargo? She is the woman who wrote an op-ed piece for the Irish Times last year proclaiming that trying to help young Irish undocumented was akin to "putting lipstick on a pig." She and Stanage clearly collaborated on the Irish Times article.
Welcome to a new generation of leadership, a writer of Unionist background who slams Irish American organizations at every opportunity, and a Portuguese American who compares Irish to pigs and heads an organization that about 99% of Irish Americans have never heard of.
What is the U.S.-Ireland Alliance? In addition to the government funding it receives, it is also funded by private sources -- mainly the property speculators in Ireland who have brought the country to the brink of ruin.
Over here, well-meaning congressmen like Pete King and Joe Crowley have helped it get funding from American taxpayers every year. That should end.
Back in Ireland the alliance continues to take funds from the Irish government, despite the horrific recession that has left the country on its knees. If you ask Irish people they would be sure to say that funding American students to come to Ireland is not their priority right now.
Irish Americans need to mobilize here and end the funding from America for this group that now purports to treat us like idiots and as completely out of touch.
The Irish government should re-prioritize too and tell the U.S.-Ireland Alliance enough is enough, and spend taxpayer money on better issues. Maybe then the message will get through to the likes of Unionist tradition Stanage and “lipstick on a pig” Vargo that Irish Americans are not so easily duped and misled.