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Irish in Hollywood

Vargo heads U.S.-Ireland Alliance to raise Eire profile

There’s green in Hollywood, and then there’s emerald green. The latter, represented by the U.S.-Ireland Alliance, has been steadily making inroads in furthering relations between the U.S. and Ireland.Tip Sheet
What: Oscar Wilde: Honoring the Irish in Film
When: 6:30 tonight
Where: Ebell Theater, L.A.
Web: us-
irelandalliance.org

Most of the org’s progress (celebrated tonight at its annual Oscar Wilde Awards) can be attributed to its president, Trina Vargo. A foreign policy adviser to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy for many years (Vargo came to Kennedy’s office straight out of grad school), she created the alliance in 1998.

“The alliance came about when Kennedy and I were in meetings (with Ireland officials),” Vargo says. “Kennedy told them that they need to create a future constituency, instead of relying on a handful of us in the U.S. always to help. So when George Mitchell got the Belfast agreement signed, I said to Kennedy, ‘I know what you meant about organization, and I’m going to do that now.'”

Vargo, who had worked directly with political leaders in Northern Ireland, the Clinton administration and the Irish government, had been a key player behind the scenes in the Northern Ireland peace process. With her many relationships with top officials from working with Kennedy, she was uniquely positioned to spearhead such an organization.

“Northern Ireland has largely been sorted (out), it doesn’t need constant American attention, and Ireland isn’t a poor country anymore,” Vargo says. “So if you want an alliance, you need to completely turn the ship, you now have to focus on business, education and culture.”

In the spirit of reducing cultural barriers, the Oscar Wilde Awards have recognized both the Irish and non-Irish. Two years ago, writer-producer James L. Brooks was given “honorary Irishman” status, not in small part because “The Simpsons” has a cultlike following in Ireland, with many Irish references.

Since that event, Brooks has filmed an episode about an Irish pub closing, with a performance by Irish musicians Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. And other happy developments increasing Ireland’s profile in Hollywood have also taken place.

“Two people who sang at the last event were also signed from that event,” Vargo says. “We have a network to introduce people to opportunities.”

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