In November, Ms Vargo sparked a firestorm of criticism when she attacked the work of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform and said that the undocumented Irish did not deserve support. Ms Flanagan explained that she had been unaware of Ms Vargo’s comments, which included likening the Irish campaign to “putting lipstick on a pig,” when the Alliance announced its award. “At the time I had no idea of the views,” held by Ms Vargo “and/or the U.S,-Ireland Alliance,” on the issue of illegal Irish immigrants to the United States,” she said. “I had not then seen, nor was I aware of the Op-Ed piece which appeared in the The Irish Times on November 16th. 2007 in which (Ms Vargo), President of the US-Ireland Alliance, made those views abundantly clear.” “No disclaimer appears therein, nor subsequently, in the Times, that would locate these views as solely yours and since they were published under your titles as President and Founder of the U.S.-Ireland Alliance it certainly reads that you were representing the views of your organization and its Board of Directors.” Speaking in the US this week, Ms Flanagan, said she would “respectfully decline” to be honoured by the Alliance when “it appears to have taken such a strong position against the most vulnerable of my countrymen.” Ms Flanagan also cited her own experience as an “Irish illegal” in the US. “I was broke, dreadfully homesick for my family and lived in constant fear of deportation. “My time of living with such insecurity was relatively short; I can only imagine the anxiety and suffering of families who live thus for years. The experience made me very empathetic to the plight and suffering of all illegal immigrants.” “Over the years, when asked, I have lent my name and whatever support I could to a variety of organizations in Southern California which have championed sanctuary and the rights of immigrants who come largely from Central America. Their struggle is not easy and the bias against them is horrendous. “I applaud the efforts of all the immigrant groups who are actively involved in lobbying the cause of their “undocumented” members. I applaud their respective homeland governments when they help to plead their case. “We are the sum of our experiences and mine being what they are I particularly empathize with Irish illegal families. I have supported and will continue to support, both privately and publicly, the work of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform and have campaigned for their cause. I have no evidence that they, or any of the other Irish organizations who support them, wish to exclude anyone for reasons of ethnicity or otherwise. To the contrary, as with the other lobbying immigrant groups with which I am familiar, they express a keen understanding of the power of solidarity. “Given the specter of a looming economic recession, coupled with rising antipathy towards them as a group and, seemingly, a growing wish nationwide to turn them into scapegoats, many illegals fear violence against themselves and their children. Disillusioned by repeated failures of government to solve the issue, they have resorted to organized, proactive lobbying on their own behalf. “To castigate or shame the Irish immigrants for doing so now is not something to which I can in conscience lend my name. Or even appear to do so. “I must respectfully decline to be honored by your organization which appears to have taken such a strong position against the most vulnerable of my countrymen. I thank you and your Board for wishing to honor me; however I wish to withdraw my name from the list of honorees and will not be attending the upcoming Oscar Wilde Event.” The US-Ireland Alliance third annual “Oscar Wilde: Honoring the Irish in Film” pre-Academy Awards party, is scheduled for Thursday, February 21, 2008 at the Wilshire Ebell in Los Angeles. Ms. Flanagan was to join Academy Award winner James L. Brooks and actress Fiona Shaw as an honoree at the event that was created to bring together people in the film industry in the US and Ireland. Ms. Flanagan”s vast body of work includes starring roles in feature films, television and theatre, as well as experience behind the scenes as a producer. She is currently appearing in the Showtime series Brotherhood, in which she plays the matriarch of an Irish family in Providence, Rhode Island. Her feature film credits include the box-office hit The Others, for which she won a Saturn Award, The Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood, James Joyce’s Women, Youngblood, Sinful Davey, Ulysses, Mr. Patman, A State Of Emergency, Reflections, Final Verdict, the Oscar”- winning In The Region Of Ice, Death Dreams, Mad At The Moon and Money For Nothing. Her Irish roots shine in such distinctive Irish films as Waking Ned Devine and Some Mother’s Son. She also won rave reviews playing Felicity Huffman”s mother in Transamerica. In 2007, she appeared in Anthony Hopkins” indie film, Slipstream. Contributed by Seamus Ryan

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