Irish Community & Culture

History & Heritage of the London Irish Centre

In 1955, the London Irish Centre (LIC) opened its doors to meet the needs of newly arrived Irish emigrants. Initially providing accommodation and welfare, the Centre quickly became an important social and cultural venue. 

1954: The London Irish Centre is founded by a group from the Irish Priests Committee, who were worried about ill-prepared emigrants arriving in post-World War II London 

1955: No. 50 Camden Square, chosen for its proximity to Euston where the train from Holyhead arrived, is purchased for £3,887.1os. No. 51 is bought soon after for £2,700 

1955: Fr Tom McNamara (Fr Mac) becomes the first director of the Centre. Managed by clergy and supported by volunteers, the Centre’s focus was on accommodation and employment for new emigrants 

1955: The Centre is formally opened by Bishops, and named Blessed Oliver Plunkett House, after the Irish scholar, patriot and martyr. When it opened it housed 10 boys and stated its aim as “to promote the social, recreational and spiritual welfare of Irish people in London” 

1956: The London Irish Centre becomes a registered charity 

1960s: The Late Late Show is broadcast from the centre 

1962: The first paid full-time welfare worker is employed at the Centre, for the sum of £800 per year 

1963: Aer Lingus flies over Irish food for the Centre’s AGM

1964: Ted Kennedy visits the centre to view plans for the JF Kennedy Memorial Hall, built on the Centre’s garage and gardens 

1965: The Kennedy Hall is opened in the presence of the US Ambassador, to serve as a space for social occasions. The Douglas Hyde lounge bar is also opened upstairs 

1967: Paddy Hackett becomes the first Oblate director of the Centre 

1968: Bing Crosby visits the Centre to discuss an appearance at a fundraising concert 

1969: Leeds football players visit and have a drink at the ballad session in the Douglas Hyde bar. Jack Charlton pays up as an Irish Centre club member 

1969: Irish Centre Hostels is set up so that the LIC could have official status as a housing association. It cost £2 per week for bed, breakfast and dinner 

1972: Brian Duggan becomes the second Irish Mayor of Camden. Always very connected to the Centre, he ran the Missing Persons service at LIC after his political career 

1970s: Tommy Maguire teaches his legendary music classes for children at the Centre. Over the years Tommy taught hundreds of children traditional Irish music, with the proceeds of his classes going back to the Centre 

1975: Fr Cagney discusses the development of a new social hall at the centre at the 1975 AGM, saying “the Centre will embody all that is best in our culture and tradition and will throb with the pulse of the Irish nation” 

1980: The McNamara Hall is opened. The Centre had forgotten to apply for a licence for the McNamara, so they had to celebrate the opening in the Kennedy Hall! The first event in the McNamara was a Mayo parish reunion 

1981: John Moriarty, of the centre’s Welfare department, appears on The Late Late Show to talk about Irish emigrants in London 

1983: Fr Jim Butler does a sponsored 1,000-mile bike ride around Ireland, with Doris Daly collecting in pubs along the way to raise money for the centre, with £169,000 being raised in total 

1984: The Pogues shoot the video for Waxie’s Dargle at the centre 

1988: The Day Centre at LIC is opened by Bertie Ahern to look after the Centre’s older community. It continues to provide hot meals, classes and activities to older Irish people four days a week 

1991: The freedom party for the Birmingham Six is celebrated in the Kennedy Hall. The Centre had been the venue for campaign meetings, and became the venue for release celebrations 

1993: Mary Robinson visits the centre as President of Ireland, and expressed the nation’s gratitude to its emigrants 

1994: A huge event is held to celebrate the Peace Process. Gerry Adams spoke, and all bars sold out of everything! 

1996: Mo Mowlam visits the Centre as Secretary for Northern Ireland 

1999: The Return to Camden Town Festival is first held at the Centre, rooted to the Centre’s heritage 

2008: The London Irish Centre launches a new website and social networks, which grow to build an online community 

2008: The Day Centre is refurbished and opened by Micheál Martin, TD 

2011: Éire Óg GAA is founded, with the London Irish Centre as their clubhouse 

2012: Michael D Higgins visits the Centre as President of Ireland, his first international visit in the role 

2012: The first London Irish Comedy Festival happens at the London Irish Centre 

2012: Taoiseach of Ireland Enda Kenny visits the Centre and commends the work that it does for Irish people in London 

2012: London Irish Centre publishes Fresh Perspectives, the largest research ever carried out on the Irish community in London 

2013: The merger of the London Irish Centre and the Irish Support and Advice Service becomes official, expanding the reach of the Centre’s services across West and South West London 

2014: The London Irish Centre presents on 60 Years of Supporting the Irish community in London in Leinster House 

2014: The London Irish Centre turns 60! 

2014: Our first eve Big Night Out fundraiser takes place, hosted by Ray D’Arcy 

2015: Minister for the Diaspora Jimmy Deenihen visits the Centre 

2015: The London Irish Centre Library is launched, with over 10,000 books donated from Ireland and around the world 

2015: Our largest community consultation takes place both online and face-to-face 

2015: Waterford’s Mary Allen is elected first ever Honorary Life Member 

2016: The LIC send representatives to the first Irish Civic Forum in Dublin Castle, joining delegates from 20 countries 

2016: Dermot O’Leary becomes Patron of the charity 

2016: A series of exhibitions and events are held to commemorate the centenary anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising 

2016: Angela Scanlon hosts her personal fundraiser for the charity ‘A Bloomin’ Lovely Night Out’

2016: Margaret Brown, from the Forgotten Irish campaign is elected our 2nd Honorary Life Member 

2016: Sean Kennedy is appointed CEO 

2017: The LIC launches its new website 

2017: In June hundreds turn up to see Ambassador Dan Mulhall unveil a commemorative plaque to the ‘Forgotten Irish’ 

2017: Rugby legends Luke Fitzgerald, Gordan Darcy and David Wallace are guests of honour at our Rugby All-Stars fundraiser 

2017: The LIC gets new bilingual signage 

2018: The LIC becomes the first building in the world to ‘go green’ as part of Tourism Irelands ‘Greening’ initiative 

2018: The Irish Foreign Affairs Committee visit the LIC to see for themselves the great work going on 

2018: 13 Councillors from the Association of Irish Local Government visit the Centre 

2018: The world’s bestselling musician (and LIC Patron) Ed Sheeran performs, hosted by Dermot O` Leary 

2018: Long standing supporter Mary Talbot from Galway celebrates her 100th birthday in the McNamara Hall 

2019: Dermot O’Leary hosts ‘An Evening with Dermot O’Leary & Friends’ as a fundraiser for the Centre’s services. 

2020: Staff move to remote working, delivering services over the phone, email and online as the Covid-19 pandemic hits 

2020: The London Irish becomes the first Centre offering shielding to the vulnerable in Camden, providing essential food and supplies during the Covid-19 pandemic.  

2020: We host our first ever online fundraiser, ‘London Irish Charity Night In’ which raised over £100,000 to support those who were made most vulnerable due to the pandemic.