As with IFI, Mitchell program also seeks U.S. funding

While a group of Congress members are currently petitioning the House of Representatives to resume funding for the International Fund for Ireland, a separate effort is being directed at the House Appropriations Committee to secure funds for the George Mitchell Scholarship program's endowment.

Congressman Stephen Lynch has circulated a "Dear Colleague" letter requesting $5.75 million for the Mitchell program which sends U.S. university students to Ireland to study at Irish universities, both in the Republic and the North.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

As with the IFI request, the Mitchell program request seeks funds out of the State Department's 2012 Budget.

The letter has garnered 13 total sponsors from both sides of the aisle. Notably, five million of the total being requested by the US-Ireland Alliance, which oversees the scholarship, is for the group's endowment - not for operating costs.

US-Ireland Alliance president, Trina Vargo, previously secured a commitment by the Irish government to match any funds contributed by the U.S.

"This would make us not have to continually fundraise," Ms. Vargo.said

Vargo, even as she seeks funding for the Mitchell program - named after Good Friday Agreement architect Senator George Mitchell - asserts that the time has come to end U.S. funding for the International Fund for Ireland.

She says the programs and administration of the IFI are outdated and do not address the needs of Northern Ireland in a post major conflict era.

Technically, members of the House could vote for both funding measures, although quick action on either or both is not expected soon.

Meanwhile, is a release, the US-Ireland Alliance, which was founded by Trina Vargo in 1998, said that Ireland's Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn had "kindly agreed" to speak at a US-Ireland Alliance event on July 13 in Chicago.

"The minister is a long-time supporter of the Mitchell Scholarship program and is eager to inform Americans about education opportunities in Ireland as well as update Chicagoans about what is happening in Ireland," said the Alliance statement.

"The Alliance is hosting events in association with the gathering of the National Association of Fellowship Advisors in Chicago. This conference brings together university representatives, from around the country, who advise students on study abroad opportunities.

"Also, every university on the island of Ireland will be represented and Mitchell Scholars will also participate, talking about their experiences studying in Ireland and Northern Ireland," the statement concluded.

At the end of May, the current class of Mitchell Scholars concluded their year in Ireland and Minister Quinn presented them with their class rings.

[PHOTO: Trina Vargo, left, with Hilda Queally and Kate Winslet at U.S.-Ireland Alliance event.]