The death has taken place of Al O’Hagan, for many years one of the most prominent Irish American community activists in the New York area, and the Grand Marshal of the 1986 New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

O’Hagan passed away in his Gerritsen Beach, Brooklyn, home on Wednesday. He was 81.

O’Hagan was a community activist on many fronts throughout his adult life.

He led demonstrations in the New York area for the cause of peace and justice in Ireland; held top level meetings with the Irish government regarding the Northern Ireland situation, and was invited to private dinner meetings with more than one Taoiseach (Prime Minister).

He was recognized by the White House under President Bill Clinton’s administration for his community work.

A statement from the family said: “Hailing from Gerritsen Beach, Brooklyn, O’Hagan worked all throughout New York celebrating and working for children, the impoverished, and of course the Irish.”

His efforts and accomplishments, according to the statement, included:

Being Grand Marshal of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 1986.

In 1974 he was appointed by Mayor Abraham Beame as the city-wide chairman for the massive bicentennial celebrations, specifically to celebrate the Irish contributions to America.

Founded the Great Irish Fair, an annual event in Coney Island, Brooklyn that has raised several million dollars for Catholic Charities. The Fair celebrated its 35th anniversary this past September and has been cited as the largest and best organized Irish Festival. 

Founder of the Bay Ridge and Park Slope St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 1976.

In conjunction with Mayor Abraham Beame, O’Hagan declared December 15, 1976 “Bing Crosby Day” this as Crosby was declared “Irishman of the Century.”

As a result of O’Hagan’s involvement, Crosby came to the city and lit the official Christmas tree at City Hall and sang “White Christmas.”

O’Hagan organized the “Hibernian Baile na nGael, Inc.” (Brooklyn’s Home of the Irish). Over the years he expanded the property and extended the building to accommodate Brooklyn’s Irish Community. 

O’Hagan has been credited with the rebirth of Coney Island, first by saving the Parachute Jump which was scheduled for demolition, and later by serving as the inspiration for the construction of a professional baseball field.

This also resulted in the formation of the Coney Island Development Corporation. O’Hagan was the first to be appointed to the corporation by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

Formed the first Boys and Girls Club in Brooklyn. CEO of the Coney Island Chamber of Commerce. Elected to the Community School Board, District 22, for 18 years. 

A wake will be held on Tuesday, November 1 at Marine Park Funeral Home. Visitation 2- to 5 and 7 to 9 p.m. Mass of Christian Burial, Wednesday, November 2 at 10 a.m., Resurrection Church, Gerritsen Avenue, Brooklyn.


This article first appeared in the Irish Echo. For more stories, visit their website here