In a time of forced government spending cuts it is no surprise that U.S. overseas spending is coming in for particular scrutiny. It’s as it should be.
One item of expenditure that has been coming in for a little more than casual scrutiny has been the International Fund for Ireland, and specifically the U.S. contribution.
In most recent years, the yearly allocation by Washington has been $15 million although there was a proposal at one point to raise it to $17 million. Twenty members of Congress want this allocation to be maintained at the lower sum of $15 million.
At the same time, there are other members of the House of Representatives, which has the power of the national purse, who want to see the IFI fade into the sunset.
A leader of this side of the argument has been Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT).
“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 Chaffetz in the opening days of the current two-year congressional session.
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Despite this assertion, the U.S. contribution to the IFI has not gone away, though its future is a good deal less than certain.
Those members of the House who are actively supporting a maintaining of the U.S. contribution see both the fund, and this country’s support of its work, as being still relevant, especially against the backdrop of a Northern Ireland peace process that still faces serious challenges.
Twenty of them, in a signed letter, have argued that “this internationally-funded program, which has been supported by countries around the world, unites people on both sides of the political divide in Ireland and the North through joint grassroots projects and programming.”
And they continued in part: “Its initiatives promote mutual dialogue and personal interaction, and allow for differing communities to develop tolerance and respect for one another. The fund also gives hope to marginalized communities and lets them know that their own efforts at reconciliation are supported.
“Since the IFI is a multinational effort, it has been a bargain for the United States, with even a small investment from the United States going a great deal further when combined with the funds received from other countries.
“Despite the importance of genuine reconciliation, American investments in this process are about more than just peace in the North. A return to conflict would clearly undermine the security and foreign policy interests of the United States. There is no question that whatever one’s views on the conflict, previous differences between the United States and Britain over Ireland and the North were an issue of deep and abiding concern.
“At a time when we are cooperating on so many other issues, we do not want to return to a period when ongoing, serious violence called into question every aspect of international cooperation.”
The signatories to the supporting letter refer to the security and foreign policy interests of the United States. This is an important line, one that has been used for decades to justify the spending of taxpayer dollars in parts of the world that are both friendly, not so friendly, and indeed fundamentally hostile to the interests and goals of the United States.
In the case of all parties involved in the International Fund for Ireland, we can safely say that a continued U.S. contribution would be help from a friend to friends; especially close friends at that.
In so many instances, by contrast, U.S.
aid ends up in the coffers of nations that are not so friendly, or are simply friends of convenience.
Against the overall level of U.S. overseas spending, $15 million is not an especially big sum. It is certainly not as big as, for example, the annual $1.3 billion check for the Egyptian military.
Of course, we run the risk of being overly simplistic here, but it doesn’t sound like the worst outcome if the IFI was to benefit to the tune of $15 million in the next fiscal year, while the Egyptian military adjusts to scraping by on a $1.285 billion stipend from the American taxpayer for the same period of time.
If, in the interests of the United States, the allocation to the Egyptians is deemed sacrosanct, well, stick a pin in the world map. There is, we would strongly suspect, an appropriate $15 million saving to be made somewhere on it.