Trina Vargo

The decision by the US State Department to end funding for the Mitchell Scholarships comes as a  great surprise. The scholarship, named after former Senator George Mitchell  sends 12 US students a year to Ireland and was modeled on the Rhodes scholars, but has become embroiled in continuing controversy.

The controversial statements of the Alliance president Trina Vargo hardly helped. She left Irish community leaders incensed on issues such as the Irish undocumented, comparing them to putting lipstick on pigs if they were legalised.

Her continued attacks on funding for the International Fund for Ireland, while she tried to grab their funding for herself, also deeply upset many.

She also ran into turbulence in Ireland where Senator Mark Daly had courageously called her to account for her outrageous statements aimed at the Irish American community and had arranged hearings before their foreign affairs committee that she inexplicably and arrogantly refused to attend.

Then there was her sneering attack on Irish leader Enda Kenny for presenting a certificate of Irish heritage to President Obama during the St.Patrick’s Day period, and attack which was completely without class or context given the occasion.

Now that the State Department have taken a very significant step there will be precious few defenders of the Alliance in the community that she seemed so determined to offend and denigrate and where she is now seeking help and writing frantic letters.
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The list of names supporting Vargo in the Irish community at present would be short indeed. There is not a significant organization in any state that supports her. Indeed, she has insulted the Irish government, including Kenny, at every opportunity it seems.

That is a shame in many ways because the idea behind the scholarships is a good one and the good name of George Mitchell deserves rescuing, even if he never seemed to question what Ms Vargo was actually up to and let her run riot.

The State Department however, clearly saw the lack of support for the direction of the Mitchell Scholarships and acted accordingly.

It is obvious that The Mitchell Scholars program needs new leadership and direction and that the Irish American community should certainly get behind the scholarship program with new leadership.

The downfall of the Mitchell Scholar program is an example of hubris where its president clearly felt there was no downside to slamming and denigrating every other Irish American organization in the US.

She is learning a tough lesson that that is just not the case.

So save the scholars, revamp the program, and hire someone that can add to the legend of George Mitchell, not subtract from it as Ms Vargo has been doing.