Society Background

Mission Statement

The purpose of the Irish American Society of Tidewater is to promote and preserve Irish culture, including music, art, history, folklore, dance, literature, athletics, and all other things distinctively IRISH among interested persons in the Tidewater, Virginia area and to cooperate with like-minded persons, groups, and organizations both here and abroad.

History of Our Society

The first meeting was June 16, 1980 at Eileen Ryan’s (now Eileen Ryan Seeley) house, with three members attending…Eileen Ryan, Marigrace Thomas and James Allen. The meetings for the first few years were at the Leprechaun Pub on Virginia Beach Boulevard. The owner of the pub, Bob Foley, was one of the original members.

Marigrace Thomas & Eileen Seeley

For nostalgia sake, subsequent meetings were at a variety of places, including the Aragona Moose Lodge, Shoney’s in Norfolk, the Portsmouth Library, the Kirn Memorial Library in Norfolk, the A.R.E./Edgar Cayce Society on Atlantic Ave. in Virginia Beach, and St. Gregory’s Catholic Church. More recently, except for a 2 year run at Catholic High School, our regular venue has been the Virginia Beach Central Library (since its opening in 1988).

Finding that the Irish were not represented on the Virginia Beach boardwalk on Heritage Day, our founder Eileen enlisted her friend Marigrace Thomas and the two of them started to sign up members at Old Dominion’s International Jubilee in 1980. The purpose of the Society was to promulgate the cultural heritage of Ireland and to promote friendship among those who are interested in Irish history, music, and art.

Society Projects

Members of the Society have been participants in many local festivals as part of the effort to promote the Irish culture. Our Irish Cottage float is a regular entrant in the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Again, for nostalgia sake, these are some of the events in which we’ve participated: The International Village at Harborfest, ODU International Jubilee, The British and Irish Isles Festival, The Irish Tall Ship Asgard II, and Heritage Day at the Neptune Festival.

The Society has its own popular events. Each year, the night before the St. Patrick’s Day parade, we celebrate Finnegan’s Wake and have a grand party, at which time awards are given for Man, Woman, and Couple of the Year, and princesses are chosen. Also popular are our Irish Breakfasts, Annual Picnics, and Christmas Parties. We sponsor bus trips to interesting places, and annual visits to the Viet Nam Wall in Washington, DC pay homage to the fallen Irish soldiers.


The Society’s major charitable effort is on behalf of Project Children which brings young boys and girls from Northern Ireland to live with host families for six weeks.


IAS Bylaws rev. Nov 2016


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