GCUES Presidents 1 thru 3

L to R- J. Barney Ferguson, NYPD ES (2) Tom Doyle, FDNY ES (3), Mrs. Sean O’Huigin, Sean O’Huigin, Ireland Counsel General and future Ambassador to the USA, and Jack Clark (1). The picture was taken in 1983

The Beginnings

It was during the 1950s that the movement for Emerald Societies took hold with the formation of NYPD Emerald Society (Police Department, City of New York) in 1953, NYCD Emerald Society (Correction Department, City of New York) in 1955, and FDNY Emerald Society (Fire Department, City of New York) in 1956. The movement led to the formation of Emerald Societies in New York City and across the country.

More importantly, it would be a new approach for Irish heritage to continue perpetuating their history, customs, and traditions.

The founder of the respective Emerald Societies, mindful of the fact that the average Irish Organization is composed of Irish people from every walk of life, decided that the idea of occupational groups under the name of “Emerald Society” would provide a means of enabling Irish peoples by birth or ancestry, to meet their “Brother and Sister Emeralds” in the same trade or profession. 

History of the Grand Council

It’s been often said the only place the Irish stand together is during the Gospel in Church. That rule applied to Emerald Societies too. At one point in time, three Grand Councils existed, and Emerald Societies were splintered into thousand pieces. An Emerald Society would leave one Grand Council and switch to another at the slightest notice.

The Grand Council of Irish Societies Inc was founded on June 29, 1956, in New York City, and William J. McGowan (NYPD ES) was elected as the first President. By 1958 the Council had 65,000 members in all Emerald Societies and Irish American societies in Federal, State, and City civil service. In 1968 the Grand Council of Irish Societies Inc changed its name to The National Grand Council of Irish Emerald Societies Inc. The Grand Council meetings were held at the Irish Institute of New York, 326 West 48 street NY, NY.

The Grand Council of Emerald Societies Inc was incorporated on May 29, 1958, and the Grand Council of Police Emerald Societies was formed in the 1970s.

In the early 1970s, the Grand Council was down to two groups. The Grand Council of Emerald Societies, headed by William J. McGowan (NYPD ES). The National Grand Council of Irish Emerald Societies, led by John P. Clark (NYCD ES), had Emerald Societies in the public service and private sector.

In the Spring of 1974, Frank Cull, legendary Irish Echo columnist “Round the Emerald Green,” was approached to mediate a merger and was named Pro-Temp. Attorney Thomas McCarthy set out to settle differences in constitutions, by-laws, treasuries, and other legal matters. Thomas Reilly of the PAPD ES suggested the delegate body overwhelmingly accepted the name, Grand Council of United Emerald Societies (emphasizing “United”), and Paul Cinder of the MABSTOA ES designed the logo.

A constitution-formation committee was named, and the group consisted of Pat Heslin (PAPD ES), Ed Hazel (DSNY ES), Jack Clark (NYCD ES), and Matt Walsh (NYC TAPD ES). In December of 1974, the first elections were held at the Irish Institute in Manhattan, and Jack Clark was elected the first President with his term of office to commence on January 1, 1975. The Grand Council of United Emerald Societies (GCUES) became a reality.

Historical moments in time

The first Fire Service Emerald Society, The FDNY Emerald Society, was founded on March 17, 1956. The first president of the organization was Eugene O’Kane. 

The New York City Department of Sanitation Irish-American Association (IAA) was founded in 1938. The organization’s first president was William Nally Sr. The IAA changed its name to the DSNY Emerald Society in 1985.

The Postal Employees Sons of Erin (affiliated with the American Fraternity of Sons Erin), Inc was founded on June 7, 1939. The Postal Employees Son of Erin changed their name to the Emerald Society of the New York Post Office, Inc on February 27, 1957. 

The New York City Transit Authority Emerald Society comprises Subway engineers, conductors, tradespeople, and support staff founded in 1961. The first president of the organization was Gregory Perrin. 

The Emerald Society of the Federal Law Enforcement Agencies (ESFLEA) was founded in New York City in 1995 by USINS Inspectors with common interests, heritage, and desire to improve their professional agency. Rebuffed by their agency, the ESFLEA founders decided to expand the scope of their fraternal and social organization nationally by including all federal law enforcement agencies. Federal law enforcement officers such as Special Agents, Police Officers, and Customs and Border Protection officers of Irish/Gaelic descent are eligible to join.


The GCUES has over 20,000 members with 24 Affiliated Emerald Societies. The membership of our Affiliated Emerald Societies serves in front-line professions such as Law Enforcement, Fire Service, EMS, Education, Sanitation, Mass Transit, and Public Utilities. 

The GCUES has affiliates in New York City, NY Counties of Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Putnam, Ulster, New Jersey, California (Los Angeles County), Massachusetts (Boston), and Washington D.C. 

The Emerald movement has grown dramatically since the 1950s, and the GCUES, in particular, has engineered many of those organizations.