The Irish National Foresters Organisation is a mutual aid society, which was established to help members in distress and the relatives of members who are deceased. It began in 1877 as a breakaway from the Order of Foresters, which was originally set up in England by medieval serfs. As they were not permitted to meet openly, their meetings were gathered in dense forest and they took names associated with forestry and applied them to their leaders (e.g. Chief Ranger, Assistant Chief Ranger, Woodward and Beadle).
The I.N.F grew rapidly and soon became the largest friendly society in Ireland. It is non-sectarian, non-political and is not divided by class. The ideas of the society are exemplified in the Chief Ranger's address given at the new members initiation ceremony: 'be a true member to members in distress...remembering that...the time may come when you may acquire their assistance and sympathy in return' and 'do not forget dear old-Ireland; teach...those under your care to cherish the memory of her heroes and heroines, her patriots and soldiers...and those who have left behind them so many beautiful and lasting memorials of love of country.' Although it spread throughout the world the I.N.F. retained close-links with Ireland and was a strong supporter of Irish nationalism. To the extent that the constitution of the I.N.F. called for 'government for Ireland by the Irish people in accordance with Irish ideas and Irish aspirations.'