Did you know that there is a society for nearly every Irish county within the New York Metro area? They serve a variety of purposes, from hosting social and sporting events to providing immigration services, and many are more than 150 years old. Irish county organizations in New York City were first established in the late 1840s. The early societies were primarily social and traditionally male organizations. However, during the latter half of the twentieth century, women were accepted as full members of most county associations.
In the 1890s, the first attempt was made to establish a central body to coordinate the Irish county organizations. At the turn of the 19th century, county societies were largely independent of one another, and there was only occasional cooperation among them. The first efforts at organizing a cooperative body came in the form of a group to promote Gaelic games among the county societies. The initial organizing meeting was held in June, 1904, and a name for the new organization was agreed upon: the Irish Counties Athletic Union. However, the society began to be called the United Irish Counties Association (UICA) as early as 1907.
In the early part of the twentieth century, most county societies in New York City saw a rapid growth in membership, and organizations existed for nearly all of Ireland's thirty-two counties. The success of the county associations has always been in that special pride that the people of Ireland and their descendants have in the town or townland that their family was tied to. It was never enough just to be Irish. It was important to know where it all began – where generations struggled to survive and prosper before leaving Ireland for the shores of America.
With a more recent decrease in immigration, membership in the county organizations has declined somewhat. Despite this, the individual Irish county associations continue to be a vibrant part of the Irish-American community and, along with the UICA, have maintained a prominent role in promoting and preserving our Irish heritage and culture in the NYC area. Visit the website here.