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Irish Chicago - Aidan Quinn

Host Aidan Quinn

Born in Chicago, Aidan started his acting career on the Chicago stage and went on to play the title role in... READ BIO

Young Irish

While many Irish-American families in Chicago are three are four generations deep, many of Chicago's Irish have immigrated fairly recently. Ireland's fluctuating economy in the 1980's and 1990's prompted many of its young people, like John Cleary, to look elsewhere for work. Following his graduation from college, John saw little prospect for landing a job that would give him enhanced skills and advancement. A friend of his had a brother in Chicago, and in 1995, after some brief stops in Ocean City, Maryland and New York, John made it to the Midwest. He and his friends got started waiting tables and tending bars. Though John was a CPA, restaurant management became his focus. It was a social industry that allowed him to meet lots of different people and other recent immigrants.

The same month that John arrived in Chicago, Trish began working at another Chicago restaurant, following her recent move from the East Coast. As chance would have it, John and Trish met when their employers hosted a joint holiday party. Trish has Irish ancestry, but does not have a direct connection to the country. The pair opened the bar Cleary's on Clark, and today, John works for the Commercial side of @ Properties. The first Irish immigrants came to Chicago to work in construction, and John acknowledges how this heritage has influenced the career choices of recent immigrants. "Irish are good managers…they have an affinity for owning land and property. They have always been in the construction industry and they've always been hands-on."

John and Trish are able to visit Ireland several times a year with their two children. Though Ireland will always hold a place in John's heart, Chicago is his true home. "The people of Chicago are very good. They are very receptive. Midwest people are easy-going and they work hard. They are very social and that made that much easier for me as an immigrant coming here...Midwest people are fantastic."

Irish Chicago is made possible through the generous support of The William F. O'Connor Foundation, in Memory of Billy O'Connor; Walsh Construction; and Robert & Joan Clifford.

Additional support is provided by Mr. & Mrs. W. James Farrell and O’Briens Restaurant and Bar.

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