Dr. John Lahey, 69, president of Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, has been named the new chairman of the Board of Directors of the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Inc., and will also authorize the inclusion of a second LGBT group to march in next year’s event, the Irish Voice and IrishCentral have learned.
Lahey, formerly vice chairman of the board, replaces John Dunleavy as chairman.
Dunleavy, who was removed from his post yesterday due to his continued opposition to gay groups marching in the parade, will remain involved as chairman of the committee that is responsible for organizing the affiliated organizations marching in the parade.
Businessman John Fitzsimons, a supporter of the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade Foundation that helps to finance the parade, has been named as the new vice chairman of the Board of Directors.
“With determination, and humility, the Board of Directors is committed to building on the tradition of celebrating the contributions of all men and women of Irish descent through the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City,” Lahey said in a statement. “We honor the values, the sacrifice, the great heart, of those who have come before and look to inspire those who come after.”
Lahey and Fitzsimons will lead the board’s efforts to add a second LGBT group to next year’s march to join OUT@NBCUniversal, which marched this year, breaking the more than 20-year ban on gay groups in the parade. OUT@NBCUniversal has already been invited to take part in the 2016 event.
The board will also negotiate and renew the TV broadcast of the parade with WNBC, the New York affiliate of NBC which has broadcasted the parade live for several years.
In a statement, the new board leadership also vowed to “develop and implement a communications and public relations plan to communicate clearly and comprehensively to the media and all other stakeholders in the parade, the decisions and activities of the Board of Directors with respect to these recent actions and all important future decisions and actions.
“In approving all of these new policies and decisions, the Board of Directors of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Inc., underscores its authority and responsibility as the sole legal and fiduciary for the policies, finances and the general welfare of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade, a responsibility it takes quite seriously.”
Lahey, grand marshal of the parade in 1997, took the lead with Fitzsimons in issuing the invitation to OUT@NBCUniversal to march this year, the first time a gay group was given a place in the line of march. However, the move still came in for criticism because of the lack of Irish LGBT representation, and politicians, led by Mayor Bill de Blasio, continued to boycott the march.
Dunleavy had remained steadfast in his opposition to gay groups in the parade, even after this year’s decision to grant OUT@NBCUniversal a place in the line of march. After the parade, Dunleavy attempted to shop the TV rights to other local networks in retaliation against WNBC’s role in forging the LGBT compromise.
He also gave an interview in April which was featured on the parade’s official Facebook page in which he said gay groups would “have a problem” gaining admittance to the parade next year.
“There is going to be some changes,” Dunleavy said in the video which was pulled down from the Facebook page after the Irish Voice and IrishCentral reported on its existence.
“The parade itself is not there to promote anybody’s particular agenda in any way, shape or form. The parade represents our faith, our heritage and our culture, nothing more and nothing less. So we’re going to keep to that, and anybody who wants to mix that up is going to have a problem next year.”
Dunleavy vowed to run for another term as chairman in the video – he has been chair since 1993 – but his stance against gay participation in the parade, especially in light of the recent marriage equality referendum passage in Ireland, proved to be his undoing.