The Irish National Association was formed at a meeting in Sydney on 21 July 1915. A key founder was Albert Dryer, of Irish and German ancestry, then living in Balmain. The INA was a supporter of the Irish peoples’ aspirations at that time for independence from England and for an Irish republic. People loyal to the British empire were alarmed by the 1916 Easter rebellion in Dublin, and by opposition to conscription during the Great War. The INA and other Irish nationalists were accused of being disloyal to Australia and the war effort. Albert Dryer and other INA members were imprisoned in Darlinghurst Gaol in 1917.
The INA has for many years supported the Irish-Australian community in Sydney and assisted new Irish migrants. From the 1940s the INA ran Irish dances every week at St Benedict’s Church Hall on Broadway. It has been connected to the Irish National Dancers’ Association since its formation, and also since 1955 to the Dwyer-Whelan Academy of Irish Dance. In the 1940s and 1950s Australian-born Irish fiddle players Frank Heffernan and Billy Crow played for the INA dances and also dance competitions.
The Irish community funded and built the INA building in Devonshire Street, Surry Hills, which was opened in 1955. The Irish Gaelic Club was established on the first floor of the building in 1973.
Many musicians, singers and dancers have performed in that building. In the 1970s and 1980s they included the piper and singer Declan Affley, and musicians such as the “Jimmies” McBride, Mullarkey and Philbin.
The time of the Irish Hunger Strikes in the early 1980s was difficult for the Irish community and also for the Gaelic Club. Due to decisions made by the Club’s management, the INA was forced to sell the ground floor of its building in 2003. The ground floor is now operated separately by a private hotel group as GT’s Hotel, which is not connected to the INA.
The INA and the Irish Gaelic Club are now going through a renaissance as an Irish cultural centre, and a focal point for the Irish community and their friends. The two organisations are rebuilding with the involvement of a new generation of Irish-Australians.