The Chairman of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee John Dunleavy cut a lonely figure at the grand marshal announcement at the New York Athletic Club last week – an event that also highlighted the historic acceptance of a gay group that will take part in next year’s march for the first time.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan was the choice to lead the parade, but it was the announcement that a gay group, OUT@NBCUniversal, would march that also brought cheers from the crowd.
Though parade leaders have tried since to paper over the cracks on the committee and say Dunleavy was on board with this decision, his demeanor on the evening and body language indicated anything but.
Indeed, the official program for the evening had Dunleavy introducing the grand marshal, the very same Cardinal Dolan.
The fact that he didn’t and the task was left to Vice Chairman John Lahey, who has played a huge role in salvaging the parade, was very telling.
It was an extraordinary turnaround, and Dunleavy seemed utterly at odds with it.
Nobody on the board was more strident in wanting to exclude gays than the parade chairman. He had compared them walking with the Irish to Nazis walking in a Jewish parade and Ku Klux Klan in a black parade.
That was always very unfortunate language, but Dunleavy obviously felt secure that his views on the issue were always broadly acceptable to the cardinal.
The two men were close and Dunleavy never made a decision on the parade without consulting the cardinal, though both men may now deny that.
Sources within the parade have confirmed their frequent consultations on the issue. Going back to the time of Cardinal John O’Connor, who took a strong stand on parade issues, the incumbent New York Archdiocese head had essentially a veto on key questions in relation to the parade.
Dunleavy and the cardinal had a close relationship, which makes Dunleavy’s non-introduction of the 2015 grand marshal even stranger.
It should have been one of the highlights of Dunleavy’s career as parade chairman to introduce the very popular Dolan.
The fact is, however, that Dunleavy may feel that he has been cast aside at a key moment and is no longer a main player.
Dolan, apart from being a prince of the church, is a prime politician who saw very clearly the disaster looming on Fifth Avenue with all advertising support pulled and NBC nixing its television coverage.
He did what any smart politician would do and found a way, using the newly liberal language from Pope Francis who in contrast to Dunleavy had stated “Who am I to judge?” when it came to the issue of gays.
But was Dunleavy on board with the seminal shift in policy?
Other parade honchos claim yes, but his non-introduction of the cardinal and silence on the night may suggest otherwise.
John Dunleavy looked like a man bereft, watching as his most trusted ally left him in his wake and took off in a different direction.
His silence spoke volumes no matter what others might claim.