“This has gone far enough.”

Niall O’Dowd’s apparent campaign against Trina Vargo, of the US-Ireland Alliance lobby group, continues with another editorial at his Irish Central website. Niall Stanage also gets another, more even-tempered this time, mention. The “Irish Voice Editorial” complains that “the Irish government is planning to give the U.S.-Ireland Alliance some $25 million over the next few years according to Batt O’Keefe, the minister for education there.” But the statement referred to notes that the intended funding, for the George J Mitchell Scholarships programme, is conditional.

[Minister for Education and Science, Batt O’Keeffe TD] said the Irish Government’s intention is to make €20 million available for the prestigious scholarships over the next number of years. This is on top of the Government’s IR£2 million contribution in 1999 when the programme was set up.

Since then, the cost of the scholarships has been met using this money, as well as funding from the British government and from private donors through the US-Ireland Alliance – the Virginia-based non-partisan, non-profit group that manages and controls the George Mitchell Scholarship Programme. ‘The forthcoming legislation will commit the Irish Government to providing up to €4 million annually over the next number of years provided matching funding can be raised from private donors by the US-Ireland Alliance,’ said Minister O’Keeffe. [added emphasis]

The Irish Voice editorial also repeats a claim made previously by O’Dowd that

Vargo, for instance, has made it clear in several op-eds in The Irish Times that she believes Irish undocumented should not be helped. Even though the undocumented issue had nothing whatsoever to do with her, she decided to attack anyway.

She wrote that helping such people would be akin to putting “lipstick on a pig” — this was her actual quote.

Which, again, is not entirely accurate.

As noted at the time, Vargo was arguing that “Irish-Americans trying to get a special deal only for Irish illegal migrants in the US are wrong.”

The US immigration system needs fixing, but it requires a comprehensive and united approach. The deportation of 12 million people is clearly not possible, and pragmatism favours efforts to create an earned path to citizenship for those in the US illegally. Sadly, that effort has been stalled.

But to support a special deal that would single out illegal Irish immigrants for preferential treatment would be morally wrong, could harm the US-Ireland relationship, damage the high regard in which Irish-Americans are held, and lead to a divisive debate in the US between the Hispanic community and the Irish-American community.


Supporters of a special deal for the Irish say there is precedent, that this was done for Australia. What they neglect to point out is that those visas had nothing to do with illegal immigrants. They were about trade agreements and facilitating the movement of professionals to the US. They were temporary visas subject to stringent eligibility requirements. The visas were only available to those with specific professional skills and for specific jobs pursuant to trade agreements.

There is also talk of trying to mask a “special deal” by cloaking it in innocuous immigration provisions but this is just an attempt to, as they say on Wall Street, “put lipstick on that pig”.

Still, at least Niall O’Dowd has, apparently, wisely decided to stop flogging one dead horse.