The downfall of John Dunleavy as New York Parade Chairman, a position he held since 1993, became inevitable once he utterly failed to understand the changed politics of the LGBT issue in America.
Dunleavy, 78, was working off an old script, one that held that the gay lifestyle was an abomination and gay groups had no place in the St. Patrick’s Parade.
Opposed to him within the parade committee was Vice Chairman John Lahey, President of Quinnipiac University, who understood the parade had to change on the issue rapidly or suffer serious decline.
He held fast to that anti-gay marchers position, very trenchantly in private, and was seeking to keep gays out of the 2016 parade and moving coverage away from NBC because they had made clear their desire to have a gay group march again.
It was a King Canute strategy. Even Cardinal Dolan, no liberal he, understood last year the ground rules had changed and proudly marched as Grand Marshal in a parade that included an NBC gay group Out@NBC.
If Dunleavy had taken his lead from the cardinal it is likely he would still be chairman and that one other gay group – the Lavender and Green Alliance led by Brendan Fay – would march in the parade thereby finally bringing closure to the issue.
While loyal Catholics, the Irish American business community fully understood the changed politics of the gay issue and the need to remove it as a huge flashpoint in the world’s largest parade. It had become the salient issue year after year since 1991.
Leading companies that sponsored the parade, such as Guinness and Heineken, had also made clear their desire for an inclusive parade. The Irish government, tired of being caught in the middle in the dispute, had also been pushing for change.
All their efforts had fallen on deaf ears. Dunleavy was supported by like-minded older Irish immigrants who run the parade operations and swear loyalty to him. They seemed impervious to outside influence.
Dunleavy saw himself in the mold of Judge John Comerford and Frances Beirne previous parade chairmen who ruled for years with an iron fist and brooked no arguments.
In the end, however, he utterly failed to read the politics of the situation. The Irish government, the cardinal, the mayor, the political establishment all wanted an inclusive parade.
John Dunleavy wanted the good old days of Catholic orthodoxy and rule by fiat.
In the end time just simply passed the Westmeath native by and his departure signals an end to a hugely divisive issue in the Irish American community.