By Susan Falvella Garraty
Washington, D.C. --- There's a changed balance of power in Washington this week with the swearing in of the 112th Congress and a Republican dominated House of Representatives. And some Republicans want to take immediate action on what programs get funded, and which are axed.
"It's my intention to come to the floor and stand in the well of the House and offer a stand alone bill to strike funding for the International Fund for Ireland," said Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT).
In an interview with the Echo, Chaffetz said he did not have anything against the fund or Ireland, he just believed the IFI had outlived its usefulness.
As a result of House and Senate votes held just before the Christmas break, the IFI is funded, along with all of the U.S. government's budgetary commitments, until March.
During the new appropriations process, Chaffetz thinks he will gain co-sponsors for his legislation, including the new Speaker of the House, John Boehner.
The IFI helped bring peace to Ireland, but in the current state of fiscal crisis, he argued that there was "no justification for spending taxpayer's money" on it.
"It's a non-functional program, and I'm not the only one who thinks that because I've done my homework. I met with the Irish ambassador and even he admitted freely that they're winding it down," Chaffetz said.
Irish Ambassador to the United States, Michael Collins responded by saying that he had met with Chaffetz 18 months ago and he had indeed told the congressman Dublin did see the IFI as "winding down."
However, explained Collins in an interview, a great deal had changed in the year-and-a-half since the two had met, including a rise in sectarian incidents and a budgetary crisis in Ireland.
"Now there is support from Belfast with the Executive and the two governments [Irish and British] to continue to seek funding," said Ambassador Collins.
Chaffetz is unmoved by such an appeal and said the IFI represented a lot of what was wrong in American discretionary spending.
He said that just because a program had been started, it should not be continually renewed out of budgetary habit. There should not be a line item of money dedicated, he said, to pay for "Irish things, or Italian things or any other country just because it needs to be reviewed every year, and right now we have to strike the big and the small."
Funding for the IFI in 2009-2010 was $15 million and currently looks set to remain at that figure. The U.S. has been donating a similar amount to the fund for more than 20 years.
"And just to be clear, I don't have anything against the Irish, in fact I have some Irish in me," Chaffetz said