As the 2016 New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade gears up for a record number of marchers – and, sources tell the Irish Voice, more advertising and sponsorship support than ever before – dissent still exists in the ranks of the parade’s affiliated organizations over the change in the event’s leadership structure.

The chairman of the parade’s board of directors, Dr. John Lahey, who was elected last June, has attempted to address the concerns of the affiliates this past week, speaking at the annual United Irish Counties dinner in Queens on Friday night, and appearing at an AOH Metropolitan Conference meeting on Sunday afternoon on Long Island.

Lahey spoke of the importance of the affiliate groups at the dinner, and spent more than an hour at the AOH meeting answering questions.

“There is still misinformation out there,” a source told the Irish Voice, specifically concerning the alleged sidelining of the affiliates in the parade.

On Monday, John Tully, who the affiliates unanimously elected as chairman of the parade board’s Parade and Celebration Committee last November, sent a letter to the groups informing them that he and his fellow committee members have not had a role in organizing the 2016 march.

“Ordinarily the committee would schedule a meeting to distribute information to you about your position in the line of march. This year is different,” Tully wrote.

“Your elected Parade Committee has not been involved in the preparation and communication of the line of march This work has been done by Hilary Beirne. Please direct any questions or concerns about the line of march to him.

“Your elected Parade Committee will continue to do its best to work with all involved and represent the interests of the affiliated organizations in producing an excellent 2016 parade.”

Tully was elected to the chairmanship of the Parade and Celebration Committee after the long-time chair, John Dunleavy, stepped down. Dunleavy filed a lawsuit against Lahey last October over the changes in parade management that resulted in Dunleavy’s demotion from chief parade spokesperson after a board meeting in June. Dunleavy is also the subject of an investigation by the New York State Attorney General’s office over the alleged misuse of parade finances.

Because of the ongoing lawsuit filed by Dunleavy in Bronx Supreme Court – a new hearing date has been set for March 24 – the parade’s board of directors hasn’t officially recognized the November meeting which elected a new slate of officers led by Tully. However, Tully, an attorney, and Lahey, president of Quinnipiac University and the 1997 parade grand marshal, have met on a number of occasions, and Lahey is intent on moving forward while improving relations with the affiliate groups.

The group called Concerned Members of the Affiliated Organizations issued a press release last month stating in part, “As we celebrate the centenary of the proclamation of the Irish Republic, one of whose key principles was universal suffrage, it is ironic that Dr. Lahey remains steadfast in his determination to disenfranchise the affiliated organizations and eliminate the Parade Committee.”

New York St. Patrick's Day parade pipers.iStock