The changes in the St. Patrick's Day parade in New York are long overdue and very welcome. New chairman Dr. John Lahey have moved quickly to take control and bring order and one of the world’s most famous parades.
Lahey and his vice chair John Fitzsimons are now running the board of NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Inc., which was incorporated to oversee all aspects of the event. John Dunleavy retains his role as chairman of the parade committee with responsibility for organizing the marching units on the day.
The gay marching issue that has bedeviled the parade since 1991, an incredible 24 years now, looks like it will be finally resolved by the addition of one extra gay group next year, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising if that group is the Lavender and Green Alliance headed by long-time activist Brendan Fay.
The statement issued Wednesday, July 1 by Lahey and his board couldn’t have been clearer. Lahey has the “authorization to add a second lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender group to the parade” in 2016. The group will join OUT@NBCUniversal, which marched this year, the first openly gay group to take part in the event.
It was great to see such a straightforward statement devoid of caveats or obfuscation but dealing with a massively contentious issue head on.
What is proposed is a fair and equitable solution on all sides. Fay and his group remain the only truly active Irish LGBT group year round which has also worked on other campaigns such as legalizing the undocumented Irish.
There have been few more committed individuals in the community than Fay, who along with Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy created the St. Pat’s for All parade in Queens in 2000. Fay has fought long and honorably for the right to walk up Fifth Avenue as a proud and included Irish American. Hopefully that will now happen.
The New York City parade reflects the reality of the community and indeed of contemporary Ireland and America. In May Ireland passed gay marriage in an overwhelming vote, and last month the Supreme Court legislated for it over here. How could the New York parade continue without changing too?
In that context It is heartening to finally see a new and far more practical group in charge led by Lahey, a man of true stature and accomplishment.
Lahey leads a major university as president of Quinnipiac in Connecticut. He has been to the forefront of the extraordinary effort to create the Great Hunger museum on Quinnipiac’s campus, one of the most treasured historical sites for all Irish Americans. He is also a former parade grand marshal, having served in 1997.
Dunleavy, of course, will have his supporters, but the prominent placing of an article on the new parade leadership in the Archdiocesan newspaper Catholic New York spoke volumes about where Cardinal Timothy Dolan, a key figure in all of this, stands.
Dunleavy completely missed his cue in 2015 when Dolan accepted the grand marshal role, knowing fully that NBC’s LGBT group would also march.
Dolan, like other leaders concerned with this issue, realized it was high time to put it in the rear view mirror and present a fresh face.
Dunleavy was obviously not the person to modernize the parade, given his many controversial statements and actions which have been extensively reported in the Irish Voice. At the end, he failed to understand the parade’s need to reflect both modem Irish America and Ireland.
In many ways Dunleavy has served the parade well, including preventing the drunken spectator issue from getting out of hand as once seemed likely, and making the show run on time.
We will obviously be watching this story in the months ahead, but safe to say a good start has been accomplished. We wish Dr. Lahey and his team every good wish for a wonderful parade in the hugely significant year of 2016, when Irish all over the world will remember the centenary of the Easter Rising.