Challenging Year Ahead for the Irish Center

While 2020 might now be in the rear view mirror, the fallout from the disruption to normal life and economic activities caused by Covid-19 during the last nine months are expected to last well into the first quarter of this year, and perhaps beyond. It’s too early to predict when there will be a return to normalcy at the Irish Center and across the city which everyone has craved for many months now. The financial success of our outdoor dining experience “Wawona Gates”, our Irish Shoppe and our St. Patricks Appeal have been highlights in a mostly forgettable year. The revenue generated by all of above were not even in existence in 2019 but have helped put the Center on a solid financial foundation during the pandemic and provided us with much need revenue to pay our bills while our indoor event space has been shuttered.

Cultural institutions like The Center, face an uncertain future and will continue to experience major fiscal challenges going forward, especially since our facility is temporarily closed. Based on the most recent San Francisco coronavirus case load and recent surge in numbers of people affected-it could be several weeks before we reopen. The fixed costs and bills for keeping the lights on in our 20,000 square foot facility continue to arrive. We have done all we can over the past two years to reduce our overhead costs. We are down to bare bones at this stage-and we continue to monitor our expenses and take cost cutting measures as needed. The only part of our enterprise that continues to operate is our online Irish Shoppe, which provides access to purchase Irish goods 24/7, with pick up from the Center by appointment, or assigned days.

A large and critical part of our annual budget are the funds received from members in the form of Membership dues. This is especially crucial now, while we are closed indefinitely. So please take a moment to bring your membership up to date if you have allowed it to lapse. Email: to find out your status. Thank you in advance for your sustaining membership dues.

We had big plans last month for events at Wawona Gates-Breakfast with Santa Claus, a Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony, St. Stephen’s Day and New Year Eve celebrations-however all had to be cancelled due to the latest Shelter in Place order. There were some bright spots during the month, as we showcased many local vendors in the Christmas Boutiques over two Saturdays (Dec 5th and Dec 12th). This was a new offering this year and thank you to Angela Tickler and Nora Daly for making it such a success all round. On Saturday Dec 19th, the UICC cultural program got a major shot in the arm, with a wonderful virtual concert produced, in association with the local Cooley-Keegan Comhaltas and Boscaí Beaga Drama Director Michael Dillon. Entertainment from across the globe included contributions from Japan, Australia, England, Isle of Man, Scotland, and Ireland, in addition the US cities of St. Louis, Chicago, New York and here at home in San Francisco were also represented. Proceeds from the concert will go towards future cultural programming in 2021. Hats off to all those behind the scenes who made the concert possible. Many thanks to all those who contributed to our Food Bank collection at the end of November – we have donated over 1,000 lbs of food to local food banks this year. To all those who contributed to the SFPD Toy Drive last month-Thank You!

December also saw the results of our first Board election in over a decade made known. It has provided four new people to the 2021 Board; Ann Baglin, Mark Gorman, Kathleen Kraus and Kathleen McKeon. Welcome to each and everyone of you. Thank you to Kate Paterson for your service to the Board during your tenure. A special thank you to Past President Anne Cassidy Carew who has stepped down after two terms on the board since 2006, accumulating 10 years of service during that time. Anne reached out to me back in the fall of 2018 to take an active role at Irish Center, and so with a little encouragement I came on aboard in January 2019. I want to thank Anne for her service as President during a most extraordinarily tumultuous 2020. Anne’s dedication and steady hand all year is unmatched. I am glad to report that Anne is not going far and will be back to raise the profile of our cultural and educational programs this year.

I want to say a special thank you to Mitzi Samson and Maureen Hickey who have spearheaded the collation, advertising, subscriptions, and publication of the bulletin during the past seventeen years. They retired the position last month, and we thank them for their service.

While we enter a period of not knowing when we can open to the public again, I want the membership to know, that the Board is working tirelessly behind the scenes to develop ideas to keep the Irish Center on an upward trajectory. We will need your help to make that all possible during the year.

“Ní neart go cur le chéile!” – There’s no strength without unity!

We will see you soon when it is safe to do so, until then Stay Healthy!

Liam Reidy, President of the UICC