Margaret and her husband Nick

CHICAGO CALLING: Whirlwind Margaret is new head of Ireland Network in Windy City

Margaret Rose Keating Mungari is a whirlwind. We first met years ago when she was Sean Ginnelly’s radio sidekick in Chicago on his Saturday show “Good Morning Ireland”. She’s come a long way since.

Margaret and husband Nick with their children, Nicholas 7 mos. Rose 2

She’s no relation to former baseball dynamo Pete Rose….but in 2012, Margaret Rose Keating was crowned the Chicago Rose of Tralee. It’s her middle name, her daughter’s name, and “Actually, funnily enough, my mother-in-law’s maiden name is Rose!"

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Margaret is a proud first generation Irish American and the newly appointed Executive Director of The Ireland Network here in Chicago. 

“If you can’t be with your family, the next best thing is your neighbors and friends and people with that shared experience, to kind of build on each other and help each other out,” says Margaret of the network which was founded 21 years ago.

“The core originators of this group are definitely from Ireland. Irish professionals making their way in Chicago and building their own network because there was a need for it.

“They were working in Chicago, a lot of them in the Loop, and I think a lot of immigrants kind of reach out to each other for support. I know my father did.

“If you can’t be with your family, the next best thing is your neighbors and friends and people with that shared experience, to kind of build on each other and help each other out.”

Chicago is a tough city and most relationships here are forged by your “clout”, starting in high school, so those first Irish folks 20 years ago realized they needed some clout. 

Margaret and Nick with the kids.

So they formed the Ireland Network to make their own, to create their own connections, socially, religiously, and professionally. And today it is one of the pre-eminent Irish organizations in Chicago. 

Margaret says, “What’s even more amazing is there are Ireland Networks across the country now, in a lot of the big cities with Irish communities. But Ireland Network Chicago is the premier and it’s the flagship, it’s the first one."

Nationally, Ireland Network Chicago is affiliated to Irish Network USA which boasts chapters in many leading U.S. cities including Boston, Seattle, New York and Philadelphia -  though it is the only one to use Ireland rather than Irish in its title. 

“I’ve met some very good friends through the network, got exposed to some very important Irish people," adds Margaret. "I was also a young person looking for a foot in the door, got myself a job in the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, thanks to the Ireland Network.”

The Ireland Network Chicago now has over 200 members and counting. In addition to their monthly “First Friday” events staged at Irish pubs all over the city, and a variety of “In Conversation” events with Irish celebrities, GAA stars, and journalists, they also present an annual golf outing, summer boat cruises, and coming up February 10 is their Annual Ball at the sumptuous Drake Hotel, “Our black-tie gala in February features a champagne reception followed by a three-course meal, open bar, live music and dancing until late into the night, as well as the presentation of the IN Spirit Award and a raffle benefiting our chosen charities.” It’s Chicago’s kick-off to all St. Patrick’s Day festivities. 

Margaret sings Christy Moore tune "In the city of Chicago"

Margaret tells me, “The Ireland Network is for Irish people and the people who like them.
Our events are designed to connect, engage, and inspire our members and strengthen their participation in the broader Chicago business and cultural communities. All are invited!”

Margaret’s background is as an executive support professional, starting right out of University of Illinois-Chicago with American Airlines. “I started out as an executive assistant to one of their Vice-Presidents in Chicago. By the time I left five years later, I was a flight service manager, so I managed about 500 flight attendants out of O’Hare airport.”

She first met her husband Nick Mungari when she was a freshman at Resurrection HS in a production of GODSPELL. She was performing and he was a musician in the pit.

St. Patrick's Day parade with mom Eileen and dad Jim.

“He was quite a bit older, by quite a bit, I mean four years.. Then about 10 years later, we met on the street in Edison Park and he was playing a gig in “Don Juans” and invited me to watch him play. And the rest, as they say, is history.”

She now goes by the name of Margaret Rose Keating Mungari! Irish and Italian, historically a great mix.

Margaret’s thrilled about her appointment as Ireland Network Executive Director. “I am excited to kind of roll up my sleeves and get to work!”

She’s going to be busy as well with her two kids, Nicholas is only seven months and two-year-old daughter Rose. There’s that name again!

Margaret at Rose of Tralee contest 2012

“It’s very rosy in my house!’

No relation to the baseball great but both deservedly earned the nickname of that fabled Cincinnati Red, “Charlie Hustle”.