Galway City Council today agreed to confer the honor of Freeman of the City of Galway on Vice-Chair of the Galway Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International, Billy Lawless, Sr. On the proposal of the Mayor of Galway, Cllr. Donal Lyons and with the approval of the Procedures Committee, Galway City Council Elected Members unanimously approved the granting of the city’s highest honor at its Ordinary Meeting of the Council held in Galway on December 8.
The conferring of the Freeman of the City will take place at a ceremony on Friday, May 15, 2015.
Mr. Lawless is being recognized for his work on behalf of the city of Galway and on behalf of Irish immigrants, and the Irish in the United States over a number years. Billy Lawless is a prominent business figure in Galway’s sister city of Chicago, but it his work as an immigration advocate that has brought him to attention in political and media circles in Chicago and in Washington, D.C. He is Chair of Chicago Celts for Immigration Reform and is also a board member and co-founder of the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition and fights tirelessly for immigration reform. Last month, Mr. Lawless introduced President Obama at a major rally in Chicago following the President’s announcement of major immigration reforms.
Mr. Lawless was named last year as one of the top ten Irish American community leaders. He has been Vice-Chair of the Galway Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International for a number of years and has supported and facilitated a number of projects, including the Grainne Sculpture in Chicago donated by the City of Galway a number of years ago and the reciprocal gifting of the Umbrellas for Peace sculpture on the grounds of Galway’s City Hall.
Billy Lawless is a native of Rahoon, County Galway, where his family were involved in dairy farming, supplying milk to households in the city. He was a prominent oarsman with rowing clubs in the city including with Coláiste Iognáid and Tribesman Rowing Club. He opened The Gallows Pub in Prospect Hill in the 1970s and subsequently ran the Twelve Pins in Barna before moving to Chicago in 1998 and helped open Wrigleyville’s first Irish bar, The Irish Oak, followed by a more modern Irish bar/restaurant, The Grafton, in Lincoln Square in 2002. After guiding both to their current status as local haunts and tourist favorites, Lawless moved on to open two Michigan Avenue destination restaurants, The Gage, in 2007, and Henri, in 2010. Under his direction, The Gage has become one of Chicago’s most booked restaurants, and Henri has earned rave reviews from the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and Time Out Chicago, among others.
Billy and his wife Anne, née O’Toole, this year earned US citizenship and were sworn in at a conferring ceremony when they took the Oath of Allegiance and registered to vote. Billy and Anne have four children, John Paul, Amy, Clodagh and Billy, Jr.
Billy and Anne return frequently to Galway and to Menlo where they have a home.