Future of George Mitchell scholarships in doubt as programme paused over funding shortages

Scheme was created 25 years ago, in light of Belfast Agreement, to send future US leaders to island of Ireland

The US-Ireland Alliance is to pause the selection of future classes of the prestigious George Mitchell Scholarship programme in order to consider its “long-term sustainability”

The programme was created 25 years ago, following the signing of the Belfast Agreement, to send future US leaders to the island of Ireland.

The alliance said the decision means a scholarship class for 2026 will not be selected. The class of 2025 has already been selected and will proceed as planned with study in Ireland and Northern Ireland this autumn.

Other activities of the alliance, including the annual Oscar Wilde Awards, which celebrate the achievements of Irish actors and filmmakers, will continue as usual.

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Alliance founder and president Trina Vargo said the Mitchell scholarship programme was “in no immediate financial difficulty”. However, she said operating on a “comparatively small budget” and on an annual basis was very different from having the “stable, permanent funding necessary that comes with an endowment”.

The alliance estimates the minimum endowment needed to sustain the Mitchell Scholarship for the long-term is $40 million.

The Irish Government has committed to match any funds that are raised for this purpose up to €20 million.

“It is time to pause to determine if there is sufficient interest in retaining the most prestigious scholarship that uniquely sends young Americans to the island of Ireland,” said Ms Vargo.

The programme is named after US senator George Mitchell, who played a central role in the signing of the Belfast Agreement which helped to end 30 years of violent conflict in Northern Ireland.

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