Taoiseach urged to stop sending diplomats to men-only US events

‘It’s time to drag Irish America into the 21st century’ Varadkar is told

US-Ireland Alliance president Trina Vargo urged Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to stop sending diplomats to events organised by men-only Irish-American societies as they were not representative of Irish America.

In an email to Mr Varadkar, Ms Vargo shared a statement issued by the male-only Society of the Friendly Sons of St Patrick in New York notifying members that they were encouraged to invite female guests to its 235th anniversary dinner in March.

“I am writing to strongly encourage the Irish Government to stop sending diplomatic representatives to these men-only membership organisation events. It’s time to drag Irish America into the 21st century,” Ms Vargo, a former US congressional aide, wrote in her November 10th email.

She said the male-only Irish-American societies were “not representative of the 36 million Irish Americans” .

The image risked the future of relations between the two countries, she said.

“This is but one example why the very future of this relationship is in doubt. I can’t tell you how difficult it is to interest people in becoming involved in a contemporary US-Ireland relationship when this is their image of Irish America,” she wrote in the email released under the Freedom of Information Act.

“The Irish Government is seen to endorse such organisations when it sends representatives to these dinners. Are women supposed to be impressed by this? I hope the Government will do the right thing here.”

The Society of the Friendly Sons of St Patrick encouraged it members “to invite their wives, daughters, sisters, mothers, aunts, nieces and female cousins, friends and colleagues” to the dinner on March 15th.

"We are confident that the inclusion of women at the society's annual dinner will serve as a peaceful example of inclusion, compassion and respect for all people," said its president Kevin Rooney.

The US-Ireland Alliance is behind the George J Mitchell scholarship programme that brings 12 US graduates to study in Ireland every year. Ms Vargo also hosts the annual Oscar Wilde Awards to honour the Irish working in Hollywood and is a commentator on Irish and US politics.