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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.

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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.

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