In a major boost, President Obama is expected to announce that Dan Hynes, a Chicago politician and Stella O’Leary, head of Irish American Democrats will serve as his International Fund for Ireland observers.
The Obama appointments sends a strong signal that the administration is supportive of the $15 million annually dispersed for the Fund which has come under criticism.
Hynes finished second to Obama when they both sought the nomination for senator from Illinois in 2004 and he lost by only one percentage point to Pat Quinn, later elected governor, in the Democratic primary.
Stella O’Leary is a long time Irish American activist and Democratic Party fundraiser. She is a close associate of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The fund has dispersed over a billion dollars for peace and reconciliation projects across Northern Ireland and in border areas.
Among its opponents is Trina Vargo head of the Mitchell Scholarship program which attempted to have some of the International Fund monies rerouted to them. The Mitchell scholarship send 12 students a year to Ireland to study and has received a commitment of $27 million from the Irish government. Some Republicans also oppose the fund.
However, Obama’s decision to appoint such high profile persons to the fund augurs well for its future say insiders. The official announcement is expected to be made today