A furious row has broken out in Ireland over the State paying some $20M to bring 12 American college students to Ireland.

Mayo TD Michael Ring could barely contain his fury on the Pat Kenny show Thursday.

"That $20m would build four schools in Mayo," he said.

"Somebody's priorities are very wrong to be giving away $20 million of Irish money when we can't afford it."

Ring was referring to the George Mitchell scholarships which are awarded annually by the U.S.-Ireland Alliance.

But Ring was at pains to point out he was not criticizing Mitchell, who played a major role in the Northern Ireland peace process.

"I'm not having a go at George Mitchell," he said.

"This is about $20 million of Irish money when we can't afford it."

The Mitchell Scholarships are a particularly divisive issue in Ireland at the moment as funding for special needs is being slashed to the bone and schools are seeing funding cut.

On the one hand, champions like Trina Vargo from the U.S.-Ireland Alliance say they're a net benefit for Ireland.

But others, like Ring, aren't convinced of the value.

Trina Vargo: Directs American college program receiving $20m in aid from Irish state as school funding slashed in Ireland