If Cardinal Timothy Dolan were not a prince of the church you could easily imagine him as an old fashioned Irish pol.
He’s a hands on bear of a man who greets and meets the old fashioned way.pressing a shoulder here, embracing a couple there, always a welcoming mien with the right word to say.
On Thursday night at his residence on Madison Avenue we all witnessed history and Dolan played a large part.
As Hilary Beirne, the Founding Chairman St. Patrick’s Foundation put it, after over two and a half decades of conflict the Irish have resolved their differences over the New York St. Patrick’s parade.
Co-Founder of the St. Patrick’s Parade foundation Sean Lane in gracious remarks thanked all those who had worked so hard to relieve the tensions and achieve a peaceful parade.
A parade at peace is no small achievement. There is finally an enlightened and far seeing group both running the parade and supporting it. Through their efforts they have moved the LGBT issue off the front page, granted their representatives the right to march and ended a situation that has damaged not just the parade but the Irish American community nationwide for decades.
They also picked the perfect symbolic grand marshal this year, Senator George Mitchell whose very name, as Foundation member Chris Hyland noted as he introduced the former senator, means hope, reconciliation and compromise to Irish people who recall his amazing role in bringing peace to Ireland as the American envoy there. Also praised was Parade Chairman Dr. John Lahey who has done stellar work to ensure a new era.
Mitchell spoke eloquently of the honor and what it means to him, the greatest award the Irish community in New York can offer. There was never a better year for him to receive it.
In the audience was founder of the Lavender and Green organization Brendan Fay who was close to tears throughout my conversation with him.
Fay, 58, a lifelong devout Catholic has been a dignified and extraordinary presence since the first year in 1991 that LGBT marching became an issue.
There have been so many twists and turns in the tale since too numerous to go into but Fay has always displayed an uncanny ability to keep his eye on the prize and never go for the cheap shout or public display of outrage.
That approach has paid off as America has adjusted its previous stance against LGBT marriage and become far more inclusive all the way up to the Supreme Court ruling.
In the Cardinal’s residence on Thursday night Brendan Fay got his just reward for always approaching the issue with dignity and decency irrespective of the many taunts against him, including some from his own side for not being militant enough.
It was a truly special moment in the Irish community, to use that overworked Seamus Heaney quote where “ Hope And History rhymed”
It did on Thursday night. The bad old memories are already fading and the Irish have proven once again that given time and space and commitment they can work out the toughest of problems