“Tús maith leath na hoibre”
A good start is half the work

After an incredibly busy month of August preparing for the launch of the 2025 Project at the Irish Center, I reflected on how far our initial redevelopment concept has come since its inception last spring. Over the past four months, there have been numerous briefings and meetings with the rebuilding group (spearheaded by Redmond Lyons, Leo Cassidy, and Michael Coleman), architects Dane Bunton and Nastaran Mousavi (Studio BANAA), and the community at large to discuss how to deliver the best possible building to the membership and the public.

Seeing the 2025 Project rebuilding package come together so expeditiously and well developed in its approach, I was reminded of my grandfather Micheal O’Connor (RIP), who often used the old proverb “A good start is half the battle.”

As the second oldest of eight kids I was often farmed out to my grandparents in nearby Ashford, Co. Limerick to relieve the “pressure” in my own home in Broadford. It was a spartan experience at Nana and Grandad’s cottage – they had three milking cows, raised a couple of pigs, a few acres of ground, including a haggard (small house garden), hay barn, and a few out houses for the cattle and sheds for the turf and wood stored for heating. I got a weekly “bath” on top of the kitchen table as a full service bathroom was not yet installed when I first sojourned there.

It was in Ashford I learned how to milk the cows (using a milking machine unless the electricity was out and then you had to do it by hand!), clean out the cow houses, feed the pigs, plant vegetables (turnips, carrots, onions, potatoes and cabbage mostly), cut the hedges and paint the house with “whitewash”!

This was rural Ireland in the early 1980s and coincidentally the same time that the final chapter for many small farmers was being written all over the countryside. Few of them knew that the end of their small enterprises was imminent. All the local co-operatives were being swallowed up by large corporate entities, and the small farming operations were only in the way of the powerful industrial agricultural complex. The days of the small farmer were numbered, but I was fortunate to experience the tail end of “auld Ireland.”

I spent the summer holidays with my grandparents, and many a long day was spent in the bog saving turf (peat) in parts of the Mullaghareirk Mountains-not really mountains on the scale of the Sierra or the Himalayas but a range of hills on the borders of County Cork, County Kerry and County Limerick.
Upon arrival at the bog, we would rediscover all the implements hidden out of sight in the furze and heather from an earlier visit close to the area of ground being leased from the Forestry Department for the year. Prior to the start of the workday a survey of the surrounding bog would reveal who was also in the bog harvesting.

Denis Ahern and family from Farrihy, in my home village of Broadford always seemed to be in the bog when we showed up for some reason. Just before we started there would be a word of encouragement from my grandfather to say that if we worked hard in the morning, the afternoon work would be easier. Then he would shout “A good start is half the battle Liam.” It was then head down until lunchtime.

Later on in National School I learned the Irish proverb (seanfhocal) for the term “Tús maith leath na hoibre.” My grandfather cut the turf with the sléan (cutting device) and fired it athletically onto the bank without breaking form in one full swinging effort. My job was to “foot” (stack the turf) on end with 5 to 6 pieces each, clustered together.

For some reason, all those memories from my youth came flooding back this month as I reflected on how much the board, building group, Studio BANAA and the Irish American community had achieved in short a short space of time on the 2025 Project.

It has been a solid start to our rebuilding efforts and there is a movement building now in the community that we could deliver this “dream” in only a few short years. Sure there is plenty to do still on the fundraising side of things, but we are now prepared to submit our plans to the City & County of San Francisco Planning Department. We are recruiting and building out our Capital Campaign committee, finalizing our feasibility and sustainability plan, and we are also starting to develop plans for each floor of the building. There are many experts in the community in the specific fields of cultural programming, nonprofit operations, sports gyms, aquatic facilities, building construction and management, catering and hospitality, sound and light, audiovisual, digital technologies, and gallery and museum presentations, that we would love to hear from to help us start to prepare for the new building. All that work starts relatively soon, so please reach out to get involved Email: campaign@irish-centersf.org

The launch party on Aug 28th was a huge success. All the floor plans, renderings, drawings, and even a video animation of the new building is now available for review at www.irishcenter2025.org. Many thanks to my fellow Board members, and our selfless volunteers who helped to host a wonderful party to launch the 2025 Project. A special thank you to Jeanne Taggart Boes, GM of the San Francisco Flower Mart who donated all the flower for the occasion.

Thanks also to all the local politicians and dignitaries who came out to support the project, especially the speakers on the night who offered strong support to rebuild the Center: San Francisco Mayor London Breed, former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, State Assemblyman David Chiu, Consul General of Ireland Robert O’Driscoll, District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar, and Project Coordinator Redmond Lyons. A special thanks to Suzy Loftus who acted as MC for the evening.

I am delighted to report that the financial commitments and pledged work for the excavation, dig out and shoring for the new building is currently at close to $11 million ($10,955,492) which we revealed at the conclusion of the launch Party.

Many thanks to all those who have stepped up to help so far, and we are going to need more support down the road. So if you have Time, Talent or Treasure to contribute please reach out to us.

Go raibh míle agaibh go léir!
Thank you all very much!

Liam Reidy, President