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    US-Ireland Alliance seeks links based on shared priorities, not ethnic ties

    By Noreen Bowden | November 14, 2008

    US-Ireland Alliance founder Trina Vargo and her colleague, George Mitchell Scholarship Director Mary Lou Hartman, are calling for a reestablishment of the US-Irish relationship  that would move beyond ethnic politics and into a new spirit of international partnership  based on shared priorities.  They write in today’s Irish Times in an article “Building a new relationship with America”.

    The idea bucks recent trends, in which a number of books have been published by such authors as David McWilliams and Marc Coleman calling for enhanced ethnic links as a way of underpinning Ireland’s economic future. This line of thinking has underscored the importance of the bond between the diaspora and Ireland, and the need to nurture those relationships as a way of gaining economic benefit. There have also been a number of Diaspora initiatives, some of which highlight the idea of mutual gain in the links between Ireland and the Irish abroad.

    Vargo and Hartman are calling for a turning away from the traditional diaspora-based notion of Irish-American relations. They posit that Irish-Americans are now part of the political mainstream, and with the decline of the concept of the “Irish-American vote”, has come a decline in interest in traditional Irish-linked issues. They posit that the foundation of the new Irish-American relationship could be in recognising what Ireland has to offer both the US and the world.

    They offer such examples as the peace process, which could be used as an international model of conflict resolution.  They also suggest  that Ireland could become a model in the creation of “green jobs” focused on environmental protection, while education and culture offer opportunities to develop links beyond the traditional Irish-American market.

    It’s  an interesting challenge to much of the current thinking on diaspora relations.  The two strategies are not mutually exclusive, however: it should be possible to create dynamic new links between Ireland and the US, in which Ireland can showcase and capitalise on its strengths in new technologies and to new markets and audiences, while continuing to deepen links between Ireland and those who feel a special affiinity through Ireland whether through birth, ancestry, or affiliation. Pursuing both of these types of connections would surely result in stronger, more-lasting linkages than either alone.

    Read the full article on the Irish Times website

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