A campaign aimed at NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Inc. Chairman John Lahey on Change.org initiated by “concerned members of the affiliated organizations of the NYC St. Patrick’s Day parade” amassed more than 2,000 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon, with posters signing on to a letter that requests “the proposed executive board meeting for 10/29 which will implement bylaw changes that will effectively eliminate the voice of the affiliated organizations be suspended, and that a meeting of the between [sic] the board and representatives of affiliated organizations be convened as soon as possible so that an open dialogue may occur between the board and the organizations that have faithfully supported the parade for years regarding the future direction and administration of the parade.”
Those supporting the campaign say they are “deeply concerned” about the “agenda” for the October 29 meeting – even though the top concern listed, “the removal of the section which states the parade will be held in honor of St. Patrick, the patron saint of the Archdiocese of New York and the patron saint of Ireland,” is not up for discussion at the meeting and was never on the agenda, Lahey told IrishCentral's sister publication, the Irish Voice (see the Voice's lead story).
The notion of the parade not being a celebration of the life of St. Patrick upset many of those who signed on to the letter.
“The parade should not alter its fundamental mission a celebration of Saint Patrick and that of Irish Catholic values,” one person wrote, while another added, “The parade was started in honor of Saint Patrick and Catholicism and should remain that way.”
Some conservative websites reported on the Change.org petition, with one prominent one, Newsmax.com, titling its story: “Iconic NYC Parade Planning to Oust St. Patrick.”
“The New York City Saint Patrick's Day parade has let homosexual marchers in and now it is trying to push Saint Patrick out, according to a petition posted on Change.org,” Newsmax said.
There has been a flurry of recent activity in support of John Dunleavy, the current chairman of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Celebration Committee whose leadership role was curtailed earlier this year by board members angered at his stance against gay marching groups taking part in the parade, and the attendant negative publicity his actions encouraged.
There were hundreds of attendees at a meeting of the AOH Metropolitan Council at St. Barnabas in the Bronx on Saturday that was called to discuss the parade. The meeting passed a resolution against Lahey’s leadership and called for other Irish groups to offer similar support.
Earlier this month, Dunleavy’s attorney Francis Young filed a lawsuit against Lahey claiming that Dunleavy was illegally ousted from power by Lahey. Dunleavy also alleged that Lahey was intent on keeping the parade broadcast on WNBC and worked in tandem with fellow parade board member and NBC executive Frank Comerford to do so, even though the offer of a free broadcast was available from WPIX.
The WPIX deal has been flatly denied by network sources to the Irish Voice. Lahey and the board of NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Inc. have retained counsel to deal with the lawsuit which has been called “totally without merit” by Lahey supporters.
Lahey himself told the Irish Voice that he is “saddened” by the turn of events that has pitted him against his old friend Dunleavy.
“I don’t know who he is talking to or where he is getting his advice. I worked with John for years. The people on the board are people that John has known and worked with for years, and none of them are doing something because John Lahey is telling them to,” Lahey said.
“The idea that I’m trying to single-handedly change the parade, to make it not about St. Patrick, to lessen the influence of the affiliated organizations, is totally and utterly baseless.”
Lahey says he has received many messages of support from the leadership of various parade affiliated organizations and other groups in the wider Irish community, including many business leaders.
“They are praising us for what we are trying to do,” he added.
You can see the petition for yourself here.