Martin Galvin, 64, the former head of the Irish Northern Aid (NORAID) group often accused of funding the IRA and now a hardline opponent of the peace process, has been named an aide to Grand Marshal Cardinal Timothy Dolan for the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 2015.
His appointment as one of several aides to the Grand Marshal is bound to stir controversy because of his aggressive anti-peace process stance. He has denounced the Sinn Fein leadership as traitors for taking part in it.
Galvin was a hugely controversial figure during his time as publicity head of Irish Northern Aid and editor for their newspaper "The Irish People."
He was banned from Northern Ireland, but slipped back across the Irish border in August 1984. He was the target of an RUC arrest action at a Sinn Fein Belfast rally when he briefly appeared and spoke. Twenty people were injured and one man, Sean Downs, 22, was killed by a plastic bullet. Galvin escaped the melee.
After the IRA ceasefire NORAID essentially disbanded, but Galvin became a fierce critic of the Sinn Fein strategy.
In 2011 in a hardline speech delivered in Cooley County Louth honoring former IRA commander Brendan Hughes, Galvin stated: "The British think it's all done and dusted. David Cameron believes republicans are defeated just as Margaret Thatcher did.
"But Brendan Hughes and the blanketmen weren't beaten. They remained determined despite everything the British threw at them. Today, republicans can forge a unity and strategy to break through once more.
"We can get back on the path to a united and free Ireland which unrepentant Fenians like Brendan, and so many others, sacrificed so much to win."
"Becoming Stormont ministers, serving on (policing) boards, and entering a partnership with the DUP won't unite Ireland."
"The very suggestion he repent (Hughes) or disown his part in the struggle to make himself politically acceptable to the British or to a Paisley or Robinson-led Stormont would have been answered with, 'Cop yourself on!'
"Brendan was an IRA soldier whose courage and determination overflowed into those beside him, instilling confidence that the overwhelming military advantages held by the British crown forces would somehow be overcome."
Galvin has also been active in the local Ancient Order of Hibernians division in the Bronx in community, activities unrelated to Northern Ireland. Each year, fourteen aides are selected to march in the New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade - one from each of the New York county AOH associations, one from the United Irish Counties, one from the Knights of St. Patrick, one from the Grand Council, and an Aide at Large.
Ironically, Michael Flannery, who was head of NORAID, was one of the most controversial grand marshals in the parade’s history when he was chosen in 1983. The Irish government and many senior American politicians boycotted the parade which took place amid major controversy.
The big parade issue the past few years has been about the right of gays to march, but Galvin’s selection is sure to inject a far older controversy.