The Ireland Funds Canada – History

Starting Out

The Ireland Funds Canada was established in 1978 by Hilary Weston. However, the genesis of The Ireland Funds goes back all the way to 1963 when President John F. Kennedy visited Ireland. During that historic visit, President Kennedy and President Eamon de Valera signed an agreement to form The American Irish Foundation. The mission of this organization was to foster connections between Americans of Irish descent and the country of their ancestry.

In 1976, Dr. Anthony J.F. O’Reilly, former President, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of H.J. Heinz Co., created The Ireland Funds with friend and fellow Pittsburgh businessman Dan Rooney, owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers football team. With a trinity of goals – Peace, Culture and Charity – The Ireland Funds appealed for support for Ireland and its people from all Americans, and especially those of Irish descent.

Not long after establishing The Ireland Funds in the USA, O’Reilly used his considerable contacts around the world to open up the Ireland Funds in other countries. The very first country after the USA was Canada thereby tapping into the extensive Canadian Irish community.

Over the intervening years, many other countries established Ireland Funds. Today The Ireland Funds can be found in Ireland, Australia, France, Germany, Great Britain, New Zealand, Japan, Monaco, China and Singapore.

Goals and Work

The Ireland Funds have raised over $600 million dollars to fund projects in Ireland and around the world. The Ireland Funds Canada over the past 10 years has contributed around $2.5 million to projects in Ireland and in Canada. Our work in Ireland along with that of our fellow Funds around the world has had a profound impact on Ireland. Our combined efforts with integrated schooling in Northern Ireland, bringing kids from across the religious divide in Northern Ireland to camp here in Canada along with numerous other initiatives have had a direct impact on creating conditions for peace and reconciliation in Ireland. Everyone who has ever attended an Ireland Funds event or purchased a ticket should feel proud of the work we have done.

Into the Future

The Ireland Funds and The Ireland Funds Canada have a rich and proud history. We promise to build upon the great traditions that have been laid down by our predecessors and continue to work hard to enhance the Irish culture in Canada, assist in helping the reconciliation that is still required in Ireland and supporting connections in education between Canada and Ireland.