History of IFC
A group of Irish-Americans, all denizens of the famous Vogelsong restaurant, form the Red Branch Knights (named for an heroic band of ancient Celtic warriors) to help promote a more responsible image of Irish in Chicago. The group soon changes its name to the less cryptic Irish Fellowship Club.
Sinn Fein troops occupy parts of Dublin, in what will become known as the Easter Rising. The rebels proclaim the establishment of the Irish Republic. Within a week, the Rising is put down by British troops.
The IFC suspends all activities for three months, in deference to the delicate Treaty Talks taking place between the British government and delegates from Ireland, including 31-year-old Michael Collins, who would go on to wage a guerilla war against British troops in Ireland and whose brother, Patrick, was a member of the IFC.
Archbishop Stritch is honorary speaker at the IFC’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration, which marks the 40th anniversary of the Club’s founding. With the nation on the verge of war, IFC members eschew more traditional political speakers in favor of Stritch, who can be counted on, they feel, to avoid “racial, economic and world political subjects.” Ironically, Strich’s speech covers all three.
Padraic Colum, the well-known Irish poet, novelist, playwright and biographer, was a guest speaker at the IFC’s 1941 St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
Vice President Truman is the guest of honor at the IFC’s 44th Annual St. Patrick’s Day festivities. In his speech, Truman declares: “whatever happens in any part of the world personally affects some of us. No nation on this globe should be more internationally minded than America.” Within weeks, Roosevelt is dead and Truman becomes the 33rd President of the United States.
Amid controversy, Senator Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin is invited to speak at the IFC’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration. During his ominous and bombastic address, McCarthy defends his attacks on suspected Communists by saying: “St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland, and the snakes didn’t like his methods either.”
Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley places the full weight and muscle of the Cook County Democratic machine behind Kennedy’s bid for the White House. The voter turnout in Cook County is 89.3 percent and Kennedy carries Illinois on his way to a remarkably slim victory over the Republican Presidential nominee, Richard M. Nixon.
The United States celebrates its bicentennial. The IFC celebrates its 75th anniversary.
On December 20, after a routine trip to his physician, Richard J. Daley dies of a heart attack. More 100,000 mourners attend his funeral in Bridgeport, on Chicago’s South Side.
Interest in the IFC continues to increase. In 1982 alone, club membership rises by 15%.
Seamus Mallon, Deputy Leader of the Social and Labor Party in Northern Ireland, visits the IFC to discuss rising paramilitary violence in Ireland.
Less than a year after her election, Irish President Mary Robinson visits the IFC. She is the first woman President in Irish history.
Irish President Mary Robinson returns to the IFC to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Irish Famine of 1846-48—the so-called “Great Hunger.”
In her poignant and provocative speech, Robinson reminds the Irish-Americans in attendance of the universality of suffering and the responsibilities that come with success: “The terribly realities of our past hunger present themselves to us as nightmare images. The bailiff. The famine wall. The eviction. The coffin ship. And yet, how willing are we to negotiate these past images into the facts of present-day hunger? How ready are we to see that the bailiff and the workhouse and the coffin ship have equally terrible equivalents in other countries for other peoples at this very time?”
President Taft is the guest of honor at the IFC’s St. Patrick’s Day Dinner. A special throne-like chair is constructed to accommodate the President’s notorious girth.
The United States enters World War I. IFC President Judge John P. McGoorty receives a request to help the British military locate any “subjects”—in other words, Irishmen—for conscription into the British armed forces. McGoorty refuses, claiming all Club members are American citizens.
William T. Cosgrave, the first President of the Irish Free State, visits Chicago and is the guest of honor at an IFC dinner. The President’s visit is a cause for celebration among the city’s Irish population. As his entourage drives north on Michigan Avenue toward a scheduled luncheon at the Drake Hotel, thousands line the street and cheer. There is only one recorded boo.
Political bigwigs, including Chicago mayor and former IFC President Ed Kelly, gather in Chicago for the Democratic National Convention. Their primary concern: whether President Roosevelt can survive another full term in office. The selection of a Vice Presidential running mate becomes of the utmost importance. After some political subterfuge, Harry Truman receives the nomination.
The IFC celebrates its 50th anniversary at the Palmer House Hilton. In attendance is Rear Admiral Daniel V. Gallery, who commanded the ship that captured the German submarine, U-505, that is now on display at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.
Massachusetts Senator John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 39, is the guest speaker at the St. Patrick’s Day Dinner, where he delivers a stirring oration about the evils of colonialism. In a thinly veiled reference to the issue of Irish sovereignty, Kennedy urges the U.S. to “speak out boldly for freedom for all people, whether they are denied that freedom by an iron curtain or by a paper curtain of colonial ties and constitutional manipulations.”
Membership in the IFC reaches an all-time low, prompting Chicago Mayor (and former IFC President) Richard J. Daley to recruit his Chief of Staff, Neill Hartigan, and saloonkeeper Butch McGuire to reorganize the Club. Hartigan and McGuire draw on their experiences running Daley’s re-election campaign to spark interest in the Club and fill its rolls with some of Chicago’s most prominent Irish-Americans.
The Young Irish Fellowship Club is founded Day by Terry and Roseann Lefevour on St. Patrick’s.
IFC charitable contributions, mostly in the form of scholarship money for students of Irish heritage, reach $120,000. The Club also makes a $7,500 donation to assist the purchase of a reconciliation center in Northern Ireland.
Perhaps taking a cue from the Irish, the IFC elects Cook County Circuit Court Judge Maureen Connors as its first woman President.
IFC charitable contributions reach $750,000.
Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley at 64th Annual IFC St. Patricks Day Dinner in 1965
The son of long-time Club advocate Richard J. Daley, Mayor Richard M. Daley is elected as the 100th IFC President, bringing to a close the first 100 years of the Club, and setting an auspicious tone for the new millennium.
The Irish Fellowship Club of Chicago serves as a hub for social and cultural engagement, dedicated to upholding Irish heritage and nurturing a strong community bond among its members. Throughout their tenures, our former presidents have played a pivotal role in orchestrating a variety of events, cultural affairs, fundraising endeavors, and projects that honor and safeguard the rich tapestry of Irish customs within the local Chicago context. We extend our heartfelt appreciation for their remarkable contributions to our club and encourage you to explore the remarkable highlights of each president's term below.
115th President | 2015-2016
Conlon & Dunn Public Strategies
When you are trying to stay afloat in the often murky and turbulent
waters of Chicago politics and business, Conlon & Dunn are often a
lifeboat full of flotation devices. A skilled network of public policy
experts, welded to corporate and public affairs experts, they are a safe
haven at the center of calm for those seeking intelligent solutions to
Out of this professional environment Kevin Conlon became the IFC’s
115th president. In many ways, his is the world that early IFC
presidents and membership maneuvered through at the dawn of the
20th century. Those successful commercial and political leaders were
always engaged in the enterprise of packaging the committed and
hardworking contributions of the children and grandchildren of
immigrant Irish into elected office and political life.
Kevin is the grandchild of Irish immigrants who made the journey to
American as teenagers. Their life still energizes him and environment
that is such a deep part of the Irish passion for freedom and self-
As the immigrant generations achieved educational and commercial
success in legal and financial matters, they became fine tuned for the
larger world of public service. The while the process may have
changed, the needs and the efforts remain the same. Kevin Conlon
carries such experience to the present leadership of the IFC.
He grew up in the far south suburbs in the parish of St. Lawrence
O’Toole, named for an Irish martyr who was the first canonized saint
of the modern era. Park Forest was home for Kevin growing up in a
remarkable community of planned, meant for organized and intelligent
St. Patrick’s Day 2016 was off to a bright observance during President
Conlon’s leadership. The Honorable Michael Madigan, Speaker of the
Illinois House of Representative was the Grand Marshal, and former
Chicago Public Library Commissioner Mary Dempsey, current
president of DePaul Prep, served as Guest of Honor. IFC Vice
President Jim Coyne General Manager of the parade and a member
of the Plumbers Union Local #130 indicated that a new VIP
grandstand had been added near Buckingham Fountain.
In summer 2016 facing into the national presidential election, Kevin
Conlon is at the helm of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in
Illinois. His strategic mapping of the road before them demonstrates
the effective and potent energy in their road to the White House.
Kevin is deeply embedded in the life and leadership of the Democratic
Party having intimately worked on the organizing and selection of the
convention “super delegates,” those high level party stalwarts pledged
to solid support for Mrs. Clinton. He is a graduate of Loyola University
School of Law, a common bond shared among many IFC presidents.
He also attended the University of Illinois as an undergraduate. He
lives in Wilmette.
He is married to Cook County Circuit Court Judge (ret.) Claudia
Margaret O’Ryan Lombardo
114th President | 2014-2015
The Gibson Group
Margaret O’Ryan Lombardo is a mom and a grandmother. But she is
also a working woman of Chicago business. She brought a natural
sense of hope and optimism with her, as president of the IFC. Her
positive commitment to the work of the IFC was as robust as it was
But she also brought a business eye of careful experience. Her long
years behind the scenes helping to develop one of Chicago’s most
respected and high end steakhouses, Gibson’s, encourages her to
lead by example and by her familiar soft touch reserved for employees
and customers alike. Her commitment to detail and excellence is part
of the secret of Gibson’s success. That and timeless steaks. President
Lombardo brought the same commitment to her efforts on behalf of
Margaret O’Ryan Lombardo is upbeat, soft-spoken, resolute, an easy
listener and a person of deep substance. She is her husband, Steve’s,
best friends, and she is generous in being friends with people across
the world, and particularly in chatty Chicago. She is a gatherer, a
bringer-together, a convener of shared commonality and
No one was more delighted when she became IFC president than her
cousins in Tipperary, back in Ireland, who found the whole thing a
grand and exciting accomplishment; one that brought great pride to
them. As her Chicago family continues to grow and multiply around
her, she is ever mindful, reminding everyone that her paternal
grandparents were from Kilkenny and Tipperary. And her maternal
grandparents were from Donegal and Tyrone. Frequent trips over the
years have made many family members cherished friends. She
delights in the cultural imprint of Irish life and art, supporting it
One of the central goals of the Lombardo presidency was that the club
create and fashion opportunities for joint events that offered members
the chance to travel and find a new sense of shared friendship in the
process. The weekend in Lake Geneva was one such opportunity. It
was enormously successful and provided members with experiences
they could share and celebrate. Continuous sharing with the Irish
Consul General Cronin and his wife, Maeve, expanded the chances
for excitement amid the beauty of Wisconsin. The Christmas Lunch
and the St. Patrick’s Dinner took place during an acrimonious period
during the election that year. Naturally there was a great deal of
politicking underway and no amount of cautious warnings or
draconian interventions could silence those voices.
At the St. Patrick’s Night Dinner Mayor Rahm Emanuel spoke, as did
Illinois Senator Dick Durbin. Jimmy Deenihen, TD, Minister of State
for the Diaspora was on hand to represent the Irish government. The
parade Grand Marshal William P. Hite, General President of the
Plumbers and Pipefitters Union, was presented with a plaque
commemorating his role in this years festivities. Police Superintendent
Gerry McCarthy and Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago accepted a
plaque on behalf of the parade’s Guest of Honor, First Responders.
President O’Ryan Lombardo is still bubbling from the experience. Her
genteel influence on the club and, in particular, on some of the more
strident voices of the membership, was truly a civilizing force for good.
She had the disarming ability to set people straight with clarity and
understanding. Her style was good for the IFC, both in challenging
and questioning what we do.
Her long time experiences working with other organizations and
boards seemed to have fine-tuned her capacity for asking members to
deepen their support for our scholarships, as well as our support for
our annual dinner and lunch. Support increased enormously and
catapulted the profits through the roof. President O’Ryan Lombardo
has the ability to refocus the vision of many members in the IFC. Her
personal engagement of others was a powerful two way experience of
She is married to Chicago restauranteur Steve Lombardo.
Patrick J. Heneghan
113th President | 2013-2014
President, Heneghan Wrecking
Patrick J. Heneghan has had a hand in altering much of the familiar
terrain of Chicago’s every changing landscape. His family’s business
has been clearing space for fresh new development all across town.
But he has a much more gentle nature than the scored earth policy of
modern wrecking. He brought that easy Irish perspective with him to
his leadership in the IFC. He also brought an Irish heart of sturdy
giving. But its what is expected when your father is from
Tourmakeady, County Mayo and your mother is from Bekan, County
Pat grew up on the Northwest side of Chicago in Norwood Park,
attending Loyola Academy and DePaul University. And he enjoys the
fact that both schools have had a strong, positive impact on both the
membership of the IFC and the larger City of Chicago. The strength
and success of Chicago’s Irish community is found at the heart of the
faith and values office school. That understanding was a strong part of
his presidency and it gave great resilience to the club.
Pat is a man of strong character and easy friendships, popular and
trusted. In recounting the high moments of his IFC leadership he
recalls the remarkably 2014 Christmas Lunch co-chaired by his friends
Tim Cavanagh and Jack Haggerty (of the Irish Hour fame). It was the
most successful Christmas Lunch in the history of the club and it put
$100,000 into the IFC’s Scholarship and Cultural Foundation.
At the 2014 St. Patrick’s Dinner Sean Sherlock, TD, Minister for
Enterprise and Innovation, was on hand representing the Irish
government. So too was John J. McDonough, President and CEO of
the Chicago Blackhawks, the 2014 Parade Grand Marshal. Father
Gavin Quinn, O.Carm., the Guest of Honor of the Parade, was also
present at the dinner.
The Heneghan Presidency was an expansive opportunity for new
membership and for widening the effectiveness of the IFC’s
Foundation. The membership increase had a direct impact on the
success of the Christmas Lunch and the St. Patrick’s Night Dinner.
Capacity crowds help to maintain the charitable work of the foundation
and the sense of direction for the club.
Pat says that he is a Cub’s fan if they are playing the Sox. He just
roots for all Chicago teams.
112th President |2012-2013
Director Charles & Patricia S Bidwill Charitable Foundation
Director of Jacksonville Greyhound Racing
Past Chairman, National Jockey Club
Patricia Bidwill still considers herself a Westsider, though she now live
in Glenview. But she has impeccable Irish roots. On her paternal side
of the family she descends from Richard Bidwell and his wife, Mary
English Bidwill. They immigrated from Mitchelstown, County Cork. On
her mother’s side her Shea relations provide her with a strong sense
of identity that is County Kerry bred. After frequent travel to Ireland
she admits that Ennis, Adare and Swinford are her most cherished
geographical areas in the country.
Patricia Bidwell came to the leadership of the Irish Fellowship Club
with a tough and reasoned business acumen, Georgetown
undergraduate and Columbia University MBA. She understands
bottom lines and the necessity of bringing life into institutions and
organizations. Her long career in race track sport gave her a solid
foundation for business and for life.
As IFC president her remarkable focus on membership and
organization added energy and stimulus to the club. Such important
componants seem like natural outgrowths of her ability to work in the
world of her family’s historic equine sports organization. The
granddaughter of famed horse racing impresario Charley Bidwill, and
the daughter of “Stormy” Bidwill, Patricia is part of a legendary
Chicago sports family.
Bidwills were also deeply political. She is a the great granddaughter
of 9th Ward Chicago Alderman Joseph Bidwell. His son Joseph
Bidwell was Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, and his brother
Arthur was a Republican State Senator. In Chicago, such political
genes are significant. In 1932 Grandpa Charley bought the Chicago
Cardinals professional football team that today are the Arizona
Cardinals. Sports is an expansive Bidwill family enterprise.
During her presidency, Irish Minister of Social Protection, Joan Burton,
T.D., later chair of the Irish labor party. Minister Burton was special
Guest of Honor for the 2013 Irish Fellowship St. Patrick’s Night
Dinner. The entertainment that night included well-known Irish singing
group “Celtic Thunder” in a stunning performance that had members
dancing in the aisles.
Brian E. Kelly, Football Coach at the University of Notre Dame, the
Grand Marshal of the Parade, was on hand, as was the parade’s
Guest of Honor, Olympic Gold medalist Conor Dwyer from Winnetka.
They added a great deal of dazzle to the evening’s events.
The Bidwell presidency added a unique historical flavor to the year,
connecting it to some splendid moments in Chicago’s golden past. It
spotlighted as well the continuous need for efficiency in the
governance of the club. President Bidwell maintained a warm and
easy populism as president. Her ability to read a bottom line, as they
say, made her a sturdy friend to the club fiscally. She was a hands-on
leader of distinction. She brought many lessons with her from the
scrappy world of horse racing in Chicago and dog racing around the
country. She has the Irish passion for the sport of kings and for the
high-sport that horses set loose, as old as the Bronze Age among the
Brian E. Hickey
111th President | 2011-2012
Brian Hickey is a thirty year member of Local 399, the Operating
Engineers. He received election as president and business manager
of the local in 2000. In 2011 he was elected to the post of General
Secretary-Treasurer of the International Union of Operating
Engineers. Brian has always been a strong and articulate voice for
the American labor. In Chicago that is gold. And it is also an story that
tells the history of the Irish worker in Chicago. The city’s long ties to
the success of organized labor flows from it longstanding partnership
with the movement to protect and validate the lives of the nations
working men and women.
In 2012, An Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny was in
attendance for the St. Patrick’s Day IFC Dinner. It marked the second
time in two years that the leader of the Irish government had been with
the IFC for our annual festivities.
Parade Grand Marshal, Father Cletus Kiley of the Archdiocese of
Chicago, lives and works in Washington, DC, where pastoral
assignment brings him into the lives and work of UNITE HERE, a
union seeking protection for thousands of worker seeking the right to
Organized labor has a long history of outreach to the thousands and
thousand of hispanic mend women who work across the nation.
Also present for the dinner was Father Jack Clair, as Parade Guest of
Honor. HIs full-time ministry is to the pastoral care of the residents of
Misericordia/Heart of Mercy Residence. But he has had a long and
vital connection to organized labor as well.
The presence of these two “labor oriented” Catholic priests is a mark
of the deep significance that the Archdiocese of Chicago places on the
American labor movement. And it is an expression of the loyalty and
value that the Irish community has always placed on the labor
Brian Hickey’s presidency strengthened the historic bonds between
the IFC and the American Labor Movement. The fact that Chicago’s
St. Patrick’s Day Parade is the responsibility of the Plumbers’ Union, a
decision that long ago Mayor Richard J. Daley instituted because of
his conviction that they would organize the parade with fairness and
conduct it with dignity and decorum. That confident has continued for
more than half a century. The Chicago parade is among the best in
the nation and in times of controversy or cultural conflict the wisdom
and common sense of members of the Plumbers’ Union has always
guarded the parade with reason. When other cities were in conflict
over their parades, Chicago could take pride in the manner in which
the Plumbers’ Union respected all involved.
Brian Hickey leadership helped to deepen that sense of reason and
was a great encouragement in expanding the membership of the IFC.
In addition, the financial support and sponsorship of members the
labor unions has been a great tribute to their Chicago Irish roots.
Patrick Daley Thompson
110th President | 2010-2011
Alderman of the 11th Ward/Attorney
As the IFC’s 110th president Patrick Daley Thompson carried a
connecting thread to one of the club’s most famous members, 56th
IFC president, Richard J. Daley, Mayor of Chicago 1955-1976. The
legacy of his grandfather to the club and to the City of Chicago is
Patrick has a healthy appreciation for his grandfather’s influence on
American politics and on Chicago’s municipal government, proving the
truth of that with his own successful election to the Chicago City
Council. He can also claim an uncle, Richard M. Daley, who broke his
own father’s records in time served as Chicago mayor. Richard M.
Daley was the IFC’s 100th president during our centennial celebration
in 2001. Another uncle, John M. Daley, a Commissioner of Cook
County, was the IFC’s 103rd president. So the Daley legacy is
expansive and historic. But that did not deter Patrick from agreeing to
be an IFC president himself.
Patrick enjoys his own popularity and political achievements. He is a
well liked, a man of remarkable understated legal and political abilities.
Nothing rash about Patrick. He is a man of well placed thought,
decisive, yet one who takes the long look. An Irish attribute of gifted
design. His legal career has been refined, intelligent and most of all
trusted, permitting him an opportunity of expanded success. Raised in
the Irish neighborhood of Bridgeport, an enclave that has give five
mayors to Chicago, his family’s loyal devotion, he now represents that
11th Ward constituency in the Chicago City Council. Surprisingly he is
the first Daley alderman. Neither his grandfather or two uncles served
A graduate of St. Ignatius College Prep and St. Mary’s College,
Winona, Patrick cherishes the familiar streets of family life with robust
affection. He even lives in the home in which his grandparents raised
their children. His influence on the larger issues of Chicago life will
add strength and reason to the political mix.
Patrick’s influence on younger Chicago Irish professionals is a source
of great energy. His ability to expand membership and the
involvement of new people in the IFC has been an expression of how
well he is respected.
For the 2011 St. Patrick’s Day Parade the Grand Marshals were his
aunt and uncle, Mayor Richard M. Daley and First lady Maggie Daley.
They each gave touching tributes in their remarks at the St. Patrick’s
Night Dinner that brought the Grand Ballroom to their feet with cheers.
It was the passing of an age
President Thompson was thanked for the style and the dignity with
which he represented the the IFC, cherishing the club that meant so
much to his grandfather. During his first St. Patrick’s Day as mayor,
Richard J. Daley invited Senator John FitzGerald Kennedy to be his
guest for the dinner. It gave the mayor the chance to introduce his to
leading Illinois Democrats who would be gathering for the National
Convention in the summer that year in 1956. Kennedy was on the top
of Daley’s list for Vice President. When that did not happen at the
convention, Daley set his goal for the young Kennedy to be the
presidential candidate in 1960.
Patrick Daley Thompson brought the spirit of his grandfather with him
to his presidency, the wit, the wisdom and the passion for hard work.
His presidency was filled with charm, an endearing gift that brightens
He is married to Katie Grace Thompson.
109th President | 2009-2010
Management Navy Pier
Austin Kelly became president of the IFC on his birthday, December 4,
2009. He considered it to be a happy omen for a busy and productive
year that was yet ahead. Austin is a genuine Southsider and has all
the credential to prove it. Originally from the Back of the Yards
neighborhood, he is a graduate of St. Rita High School and Roosevelt
University. He apprenticed as a young man and has been a life time
member of Local 134 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical
Workers. He is a active member of Old St. Patrick’s Parish, and a
member of the Chicago St. Partick’s Day Parade Committee. For
many years Austin was the heart and soul of Chicago’s Navy Pier, a
unique venue for all things Chicago. His responsibility for the Pier’s
smooth physical operation is a mark of special pride and satisfaction
For many years Austin chaired the IFC’s News Events Committee
where he had great success in generating goodwill among the
membership. But it has been is introduction to the club of event
sponsorship that has help the club to thrive so well and generate great
success in all the clubs activities. In addition, Austin has been
responsible for years in handling the IFC massive St. Patrick’s Float
that is an essential part of the parade each year. He sees to the
physical maintenance and upkeep of the beloved giant St. Patrick
Statue that rides atop the float.
The arrival of the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen for
Chicago's 2010 St. Patrick’s Day festivities reinforced the significance
of the clubs leadership in the Irish community in Chicago and its long
supportive history of Ireland’s welfare. Plans of his attendance were
rather a last minute announcement, providing little time for the
elaborate preparations. But what unfolded was a high mark for both
politics and hospitality.
The St. Patrick’s Night Dinner was extra festive with the presence of
the Irish Head of Government. It was well attended by Chicago’s local
grandees, and the presence of Carinal Francis George, Governor
Patrick Quinn, Mayor Richard M. Daley and the Irish Consul General
Martin Rouine added further dignity to the gathering. An Taoiseach
Cowen was well spoken in his remarks and noted his excitement to be
part of the following day’s parade. He recalled for those present that
had also attended events when he was Irish Foreign Minister in 2007.
President Kelly was always been a hard worker on the Chicago
Galway Sister Cities Committee with remarkable effectiveness. In
2007 he was responsible for the placement and installation of the
statue of “Graine,” the Bronze Age princess, in the park across the
street from Old St. Patrick’s Church on DesPlaines Avenue. The
artwork was a gift to City of Chicago from our Irish Sister City of
Galway. In the past the two cities shared at many level of life in the
arts and politics, but this statue was a permanent symbol of our
Austin’s presidency picked up on club members’ interest in traveling
together. Austin organized some remarkable shared travel events, like
a visit to the nation’s capitol, Washington, DC and a visit to the Irish
Ambassador, Michael Collins. Members also traveled to New York
City for the Notre Dame/Army game at Yankee Stadium and a visit to
the newly established Famine Museum, as well as attending a
reception with prominent New York Irish.
The IFC’s partnering with Galway Committee for the viewing of the
documentary “The Irish Magic of his Meain,” at the Chicago Cultural
Center, further demonstrated that the Kelly presidency was a very
proactive and art-driven year, well received by the members. There
was a very outgoing and event-orientated sense of belonging to the
IFC under Austin’s leadership. Membership increased during this very
He is married to Loni Kelly.
108th President | 2008-2009
Chicago Board of Trade
Soybeans have been very, very good to Tom Cashman. Though he
might come from a long line of Chicago Irish firemen, he has the
energy and electricity of the Chicago Board of Trade in his blood. And
he has the lilt and rhyme of Irish life deep within him as well. His
grandmother, Margaret O’Brien was a native of Limerick, with Murphy
Family members from County Mayo and legions of Cashman family
members coming from County Cork. He had the perfect
credentials to become the 108th president of the Irish Fellowship Club
A son of Chicago’s Westside, he has been a member of the Board
of Trade since 1962. To many Chicagoans, Tom Cashman is the
Chicago Board of Trade, his name synonymous with the classic
enterprise of this unique Chicago futures market. He is a pit-trader, an
exchange trading floor broker, as well as a fifty year member of this
Thomas Cashman’s professional life is like that of many earlier
presidents of the IFC in the old days who were familiar with the rough
and ready business of Chicago that made its streets hum. Markets like
the Board of Trade that flowed from the city’s commercial geography
as the capital of the American heartland. During his club presidency,
President Cashman welcomed Dr. Jimmy Devins, TD, Irish Minister
for Science, Technology and Innovation, as the its government’s
Special Representative to the Chicago St. Patrick’s celebrations.
President Cashman’s graduate study in Science at Northwestern
University before joining the Board of Trade, was a real plus that night
for the club.
President Cashman grew up on the Westside of Chicago. And
attended Fenwick Dominican High School in Oak Park and then Loras
College in Iowa. He was part of a great Irish Catholic network of
Educational influence and effectiveness. At his home parish of Old St.
Patrick’s, he and his family have given remarkable leadership and
organization. In addition he has been a director of the American
Tom Cashman also has another unique Chicago pedigree through his
wife, Jacqui’s family’s roots in the Bridgeport neighborhood. They are
closely related to the well-known McKeon Family, the historic
undertakers of the Southside Irish, across the street from Nativity of
Our Lord Church. It has always been a community political influence,
sending five of its residents over time to the office of mayor. The
Cashman Family were cousins of the IFC beloved member Lollie
Tom Cashman was a president of easy influence and courtly decency
enhancing whenever he could the life of the IFC.
107th President | 2007-2008
Judge, Cook County Circuit Court
Formerly Alderman of the 37th Ward
Tom Allen practiced as a criminal defense attorney in Chicago for
seventeen years before being elected Alderman of the 38th Ward for
an equal number of years. As the 107th President of the Irish
Fellowship Club he acknowledges that it was his friendship with other
members of the club that first brought him into the life of the IFC.
In a circuitous manner Thomas Allen has held an unbroken
continuous tradition of public service going back to the era of the
American Civil War. That’s when the first member of the Cullerton
family arrived from Ireland in Chicago. Allen’s political relationship to
that family has always been like blood. And he has always been
considered the Fullerton family alderman.
In 1865, “Foxy” Eddie Cullerton, arrived from Ireland and eventually
became a member of the Chicago City Council. He would remain for
some forty-eight years. Over time, in addition to continuously replacing
Cullerton family members in elective office with other family members,
they have also replaced one another as presidents of the IFC. Tom
Allen became the 107th president in 2008. A friend/cousin, 38th Ward
Committeeman Patricia J. Cullerton served as the 98th president in
1999. And the another relative, the famed Alderman Patrick J. “Parky”
Cullerton, was 59th president in 1960. He was first elected to the City
Council in 1933. He would later be replaced by a brother, Alderman
Thomas Cullerton. After Judge Allen’s appointment to the bench, he
was replaced as alderman of the 38th Ward by a friend/cousin,
Timothy Cullerton. The Cullerton Family exercised an unusually deep
political influence in Chicago’s unique urban political machine.
During Allen’s year as president, Cook County States Attorney Dick
Devine was Grand Marshal of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. And the
family of the late Mel Loftus, the parade’s longtime co-ordinator and
champion, were the special Guest of Honor.
As president of the IFC, Tom Allen displayed a courteous and eager
sense of leadership, without complication or commotion. He is a no-
frill person, always ready to get the job done, but without much self-
congratulations or fanfare. He is a real Chicagoan, bold in his
devotion to the Cubs and the Bears, and without excuse or apology
when they mess things up. He treats the political mantle of the
Cullerton’s in much the same way. He displays a deep sense loyalty,
but is also realistic in how effective the name can be. He enjoys being
a judge, thriving on the strength of the law to protect and clear away
the confusion. He is a life long parishioner of Our Lady of Victory
Parish on the city’s Northside.
106th President |2006-2007
While the record might say Kathy Taylor was the IFC’s 106th
President officially, her role in the life of the IFC has no appropriate
For as long as anyone can remember, Kathy is the one that helps
everyone else to succeed when they are president. For more than 25
years she has kept watch on the details of club life, its temperature, its
vital signs. She alerts with breaking information, consulting others and
calming some. She organizes around any crisis. She sets the wheels
in motion for what needs to get done.
From tasting the menu for the St. Patrick’s Day Dinner at the Chicago
Hilton Hotel, to ensuring that the singers and dancers and musician
are in their places. She makes sure no one sitting behind the kitchen
door. And her humor allows her toot take too much too seriously.
Kathy Taylor organized the IFC’s Centennial Event Celebration back
in 2001, as well as ensuring that the IFC history was written and ably
told. She does the seating chart for presidents and prime ministers, as
well as mayors and local political potentates. She knows the braggers
and back slappers. She knows the heavy lifters and elbow-grease
crew. She is in line at every wake and ready with a word of kindness
even to those who do not deserve it.
Kathy calls and reminds board members of club meeting times. She
runs interference for anyone who needs a contact or introduction. She
is a conduit to the Irish Consul General in Chicago, assisting them in
finding the right place to go or the best person to see. In recognition of
her non-stop efforts, the IFC named her the club’s permanent
Executive Director. She will go straight to heaven.
The most remarkable thing is that she does it all with a smile, a
sparkle and the promise of a glass of wine. She is treasured by the
membership of the IFC. And protected by them. She is resourceful,
filled with common sense, self-effacing, relentless, self-starting and
filled with humor. She is at home in a crowd, especially coming from
her very large Irish family. She dotes on her nieces and nephews with
whom she loving shares so much of her life. She has rubbed elbows
with all the Irish politicians from Dublin from presidents and prime
ministers, to less well known folk. A frequent visitor to Ireland, she has
her special hang-outs and eateries and pubs. Most people think she
walks on water, as no job is too inconsequential or too important not to
have it carried out with her exacting style.
It was Kathy’s great grandfather from County Tipperary who
immigrated to Chicago. Growing up in St. Angela’s Parish on
Chicago’s westside, her family later moved to St. Thecla Parish in
later years. But she still considers herself a Westsider which is the
family custom. A strong supporter of the White Sox, she has a sister
who works for the Sox and even got a World Series ring when they
won the Championship in 2005.
Presently serving as the IFC’s Executive Director, the roll does not
begin to say it all, but at least acknowledges her intricate involvement
int eh IFC’s life.
In Chicago, Kathy Taylor is the human face of the IFC, and with that
brings a sense of calm and compassion, blended with efficiency,
intelligence and kind words. And even though she has County
Tipperary roots, County is her favorite place in Ireland.
During her presidency, Irish Finance Minister Brian Cowen (later
Prime Minister) came as the honored guest on behalf of the Irish
government to the St. Patrick’s Night Dinner. His sense of social style
was easy and very appealing to the membership of the club who
appreciated his glib, frank, friendly manner. It did not take him long to
figure out who was in charge, and not just because she was the
president that year.
Kathy Taylor makes life easier for members of the IFC, and always
seems to manage a way to overcome the impossible task before
them. In the end, I suspect that is because she is always the most true
Irishman in the room. Not because of her old country ways, or has a
“Kiss Me I’m Irish” button pinned on her coat. It because she is
gracious and giving in the finest traditions of the Irish. She knows the
graciousness and harmony of a rich heart, always tender and true.
The real heart of Irish Fellowship.
105th President | 2005-2006
Jack Hartman is a triple threat. At least academically. He has a
BA, MBA and JD from Loyola University. He may be there most loyal
alumnus. And on occasion his mind moves in very Jesuitical ways. But
that is not bad in the “Age of Pope Francis,” the first Jesuit pope.
Along those lines, Jack has had a life of great trust and public
confidence. He served as Executive Director of the Illinois Tollway, a
position requiring an enormous organizational skills. He was
responsible for the successful implementation of the “Easy Pass” and
$5.3 billion renovation plan.
Jack has been a member of the Board of Mercy Home for Boys and
Girls, the Catholic Charities, Loyola University, and is a member of the
Economic Club, as well as a past president of the Young Irish
Fellowship Club. Has has been generous with his time and
commitment to many organizations.
But his great commitment has been serving as the IFC’s 105th
President in 2006. But long before he was elected to that historic post
he was a heavy lifter for the club. Jack’s sense of enterprise and
organization have always ben a winning combination when things
need to be accomplished. When serving as President of the Young
Irish Fellowship Club, his leadership was instrumental in helping it
achieve historic expansive proportions in its membership numbers and
charitable outreach. He takes an Irishman’s delight in hard work.
Jack devotes his energy and know-how in significant ways to the IFC.
Of course, he has the gift of youth on his side, enabling him to do
great things. Recently, Jack accepted the responsibility of chairing the
IFC’s Educational and Cultural Foundation, its scholarship
organization, after many years of serving on its board of officers.
Taking control after the many faithful years of former IFC President
Dick Burke, it was pointed out that the process of replacement was
really a great fit with Jack, one that the membership heartily
applauded. The late Peter O’Brien, Sr. was Grand Marshal of the St.
Patrick’s Day Parade the year Jack was president. Notre Dame
football legend, the late Johnny Lattner, was guest of honor. Michael
Ahern, Minister of Trade and Commerce, represented the Irish
government at the annual celebration.
Jack and his family are also great boosters of their home parish, St.
Mary of the Woods in the Northwest Side’s Edgebrook neighborhood
of Chicago. And though he lives on the Northside, Jack is a lifelong
White Sox fan.
He is married to Cece Hartman.
104th President | 2004-2005
Mayor of Orland Park | Plumbing Council
Daniel McLaughlin has been the Mayor of Orland Park, a large,
sprawling suburb 45 miles southwest of Chicago, since 1993. Many of
the hard core Irish of Chicago’s Southside long ago relocated to the
open lands and well-manicured tidy organization there. Many families
from the old, sturdy, parishes that were home to generations of Irish
immigrants and their families left the neighborhoods of the city and
refashioned fresh, new parishes in Orland Park and the surrounding
south suburbs. This is where the real numbers of Chicago’s Irish
population reside. The suburbs. So there was a natural harmony for
Mayor McLaughlin as IFC’s 104th President.
He is the first municipal mayor from outside Chicago to serve as
president of the IFC. But he is deeply connected to the life of the City
of Chicago by his long career in the plumbing industry and his
membership on the powerful Plumbing Council since 2008. His
present executive leadership there provides him with an intimate
understanding of the urban dependence on plumbing and necessities
of regulation by government. The health of a metropolis like Chicago
has always had a profound dependence on the quality of its urban
plumbing. “The plumber protects the health of the nation,” is the
greeting for all telephone calls received at the offices of Local #130 in
the west loop. But it is a truism learned long ago in the era when
teaming immigrants swelled the population of Chicago. Many, of
course, seeing plumbing for the very first time.
In addition, Dan McLaughlin has a scholar’s appreciation for 19th
century photography and history. He has a strong and active interest
in history. He also endeavors to understand the relationship of how
the growth of a cities like Chicago, or Orland Park, has a larger
impact on culture and society. Ironically, his roll in Orland Park’s
everyday life is more like the experiences of many of the early IFC
presidents in Chicago at the turn of the century. He must be doing
something right as Orland Park is always included in America’s Best
The 2005 St. Patrick’s Night Dinner marked the occasion of the 50th
Anniversary of the Chicago downtown parade. 1955 was the year that
newly elected Mayor Richard J. Daley reinvented the downtown
parade and asked the Irish community to join him in establishing an
important tradition. Christopher Kennedy was the Master of Ceremony
for the dinner and presented a most touching reflection of the
importance of the IFC, Chicago, and the dinner for the Kennedy
Family. It was particularly significant for his uncle, Senator John F.
Kennedy of Massachusetts, who accepted the invitation of Mayor
Richard J. Daley to be his guest for that 1955 event.
All past Grand Marshals were invited back to be Grand Marshall once
again to commemorate the 50th Anniversary. Many were present at
the dinner and created a remarkable living history of parade.
Also on hand to speak was the United States Ambassador to Ireland,
James Kenny, of Chicago. His success diplomatically created many
important developments for the Peace Process in Ireland, as well as
considerable commercial achievements. He was cheered with pride
by guests at the dinner.
Representing the Irish Republic at the celebration was Mr. Tom
Parlon, Minister of State, in the Irish Department of Finance.
While there were many reasons to celebrate and enjoy the feast of St.
Patrick in 2005 for President McLaughlin, none was better than seeing
his own daughter, Bridget McLaughlin, chosen as the Queen of the
Parade. It put a special bounce in the steps of all the McLaughlins as
the marched up the street in the ranks of the parade.
He is married to Michele McLaughlin.
John P. Daley
103rd President | 2003-2004
Cook County Commissioner & 11th Ward Democratic Committeeman
Commissioner John P. Daley brought a sense of refinement and
organizational know-how with him to the presidency of the IFC. He
also made use of that comfortable Chicago neighborhood personality
that many Chicagoans retain. A native of one of the city’s most historic
Irish neighborhoods, Bridgeport, he has its style and sense of easy
friendship within quick reach. Still a member of his childhood parish,
Nativity of our Lord, he has raised his family amid the familiar sights
and sounds not far from Old Comiskey Park home of the Chicago
As 103rd President of the IFC, John P. Daley continued a historic and
familial sense of responsibility. He is the the son of one of Chicago’s
most well-known political figures, Mayor Richard J. Daley, 56th IFC
president. He is also brother of the club’s 100th president, Mayor
Ricard M. Daley, and uncle of 103rd President 11th Ward Alderman
Patrick Daley Thompson. His son, John Richard Daley, served as
president of the Young Irish Fellowship Club of Chicago. The life and
leadership of the club has been for them a family priority.
President Daley presided over the club’s 103rd St. Patrick’s Night
Dinner, welcoming Michael Smith, the Minister of Defense of the Irish
Government, representing the Irish Republic. Gerald M. Sullivan, the
longtime Plumber’s Union’s official parade manager was recognized
for his contributions to effective management of the Chicago parade.
As Grand Marshal, he enjoyed a “busman’s honeymoon” leading the
parade as it stepped off under warm, sunny weather.
A renewed commitment to the club’s scholarship efforts for Catholic
High School students was a expanding priority during President
Daley’s time in office. In 2004 the club surpassed the $1million dollar
mark in grant and scholarship assistance to students and Irish cultural
groups in Chicago. An expanded membership in the club was also a
key goal for the year. During the year President Mary McAleese of
Ireland was re-elected to a second term in office. Under President
Daley, many of the tried and true old-fashioned ideals were naturally
reinforced by the energy and leadership he shared. The Daley legacy
has ripened and added strength to the IFC, giving historic and political
significance to its place in Chicago’s life.
He is married to Marylou Briata Daley.
James B. Sweany
102nd President | 2002-2003
Quaker Oats Executive
President Sweany came to his office with a long history of
engagement and involvement in the club. And before that he was
engaged in the early efforts of the Young Irish Fellowship Club, an
organization that benefitted greatly from his leadership and
organization in its early days.
He has given freely and generously of his time and efforts to the IFC.
He is always at home in the goings-on of club affairs. A hands-on
leader, he takes delight in the details and the drama of everyday club
needs. His openness and approachability has been a healthy and
responsive strength for the club. During his presidency he helped to
find fresh opportunities for expanding the club’s influence within the
Irish community. But he has also cherished the ways in which the IFC
could make a difference in the lives of others, particularly in the club’s
support for Irish cultural and artistic undertakings.
President Sweany was always a natural peacemaker, finding way of
increasing loyalty and commitment to club endeavors. A good
communicator and an engaging leader he was continuously reaching
out to club members for their suggestions and perspectives. His
natural engagement was a tremendous asset to his presidency.
With historic political developments underway in Ireland with the
peace process during at this time, his understanding of events was a
great encouragement to the membership. The involvement and
support of the Irish Diaspora was an essential component to the
success of initiatives for peace.
United States Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert was the Grand
Marshal of the Parade that year and Labor Organizer Margaret
Blackshere who heads the AFL-CIO was the Guest of Honor.
President Sweany welcomed Sinn Fein’s political leader, and MP for
West Belfast, Gerry Adams, to events in Chicago in 2003, giving him a
warm and courteous welcome to the Irish Fellowship St. Patrick’s
Dinner on March 14 at the Hilton Hotel. Adams’ was grateful for the
welcome he was extended and bright in his private remarks
throughout the evening’s events. The prestige and image of the IFC
was greatly enhanced by the intelligent welcome of Gerry Adams and
provided new room to expand the possibilities for peace. Adams was
also received by Francis Cardinal George at his residence. The events
permitted Mr. Adams a unique opportunity to engage people around
the issue of peace.
Dick Roche, TD, Minister for European Affairs, represented the Irish
Republic for the St. Patrick’s Day festivities that year. And he could
report back to his government that there was indeed a reasoned and
rational response to the options for peace being made.
President Sweany’s wife, Fern, is a great supporter of IFC initiatives.
Now retired, President Sweany continues his involvement and
leadership in the club with enthusiasm and reason.
James M. Houlihan
101st President | 2001-2002
Cook County Assessor
Few Chicagoans have the largesse to make friends like Jim Houlihan
does. He grew up in Christ the King Parish, the Beverly neighborhood
on Chicago’s Southside, a lace curtain Irish community of well-
connected movers and shakers. The late Father Andrew Greeley was
his parish priest and a lifelong friend. For a tall, big man Houlihan is
possessed of a natural gentleness that is very inviting and very Irish.
He has always been a doer, a go-getter. Despite elected office, he is
an up front no nonsense team player. He is engaging, intelligent and
an easy comedian, happy to use a laugh to unhinge, put at ease,
subdue or calm down.
Jim Houlihan is one of those Chicago Irishmen who you would want
around you in a crisis, keeping up spirits and making everything work.
He is a problem solver. A believer in the political process. And a
generous man with his time and resources. He came with all the right
ingredients to be a successful 101st President of the Irish Fellowship
Club of Chicago.
He is, most curiously, a product of the Archdiocese of Chicago
seminary system. Well educated. Overly kind. And pious. But shortly
before he was to be ordained, he decided to try some other things. He
became a part of the movement working to get Senator Robert F.
Kennedy of New York elected President of the United States in 1967
and 1968. He was filled with the spirit and the energy of RFK’s new
And of course he saw those hopes dashed in the tragic assassination
of the Senator. In an attempt to fill the void, he joined many
Chicagoans in the Summer of 1968 in helping prepare and organize
the very first Special Olympics Games in Chicago’s Soldier Field.
His earnestness, and gift for working with people, made him an
indispensable part of that historic Chicago undertaking initiated by
young Anne M. McGlone, now Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne M.
Burke. The work of connecting to the groundbreaking Chicago Special
Olympics, just weeks after Senator Kennedy’s death, was a pure
“Houlihan” move. He revived his broken spirit in the enthusiasm of the
Special Olympic Games, and found a fresh way to be a part of the
spirit to change America. He found reasoned and intelligent meaning
in the work that went with the founding of the Games in Chicago. They
would grow beyond all proportions. So too would his ability remain
A strong supporter of the late Mayor Harold Washington, he became
more involved in Chicago and Cook County politics, ultimately being
elected Cook County Assessor in 1997, a post he held until 2010.
His presidency of the Irish Fellowship Club followed the great
commotion and build up for the club’s centennial observation.
Houlihan’s warm style and easy friendships were a huge asset to the
club. His style had a welcoming character and an inviting sense of
camaraderie that was important in the post 9-11 America.
Irish President Mary McAlesse was scheduled to be present at the
IFC’s centennial dinner at Navy Pier in October 2001, but in the
aftermath of the attack on New York, it was decided that she would
postpone her visit to a time later in 2002. Her later visit then marked a
high point for the Club and its leadership recognizing 100 years of life.
The Grand Marshal of the 2002 Parade that year was Franciscan Friar
Michael Judge who perished early in the attack on the Twin Towers of
the World Trade Center. A Fire Chaplain with the New York Fire
Department he was caring for the dead and the dying when he was
himself killed in the collapse of the structures around him. FDNY
crews discovered his dead body and carried it in their arms to a
nearby Catholic Church in lower Manhattan. They place it on the altar
with reverence and care.
2002 marked the first posthumous Grand Marshal of the parade. On
hand for the honor was Fr. Judge’s twin sister, Dymphna Judge
Jessica. She was deeply moved by the outpouring of love and honor
her brother received from the IFC and the larger Chicago Irish
Community. President Houlihan was particularly moving in his
remarks and helped the club’s membership recognize the sacrifice
and sanctity of Father Judge’s life.
Also at the the 2002 IFC St. Patrick’s Night Dinner was Minister Mary
Hannifin of the Department of Health and Children, representing the
Irish Republic. President Houlihan was gracious and warm in his
remarks of welcome to her.
Like all leadership, the best of it is meant to lift the self-awareness of
others, so that it is possible for them flourish in
the enterprise and the opportunity of social achievement. For the IFC,
discovering fresh understanding of their Irish cultural roots and helping
others to celebrate that discovery helps to widen the impact of the
organization on the larger world around them. Many have applauded
the stable achievements of President Houlihan in the Irish Fellowship
Club. It is healthy to recognize that such leadership always seems to
carry us to the places we need to be.
He is married to attorney Anne C. Tighe.