The New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade committee remains split on the issue of gay groups in the line of march, so much so that the committee’s chairman for TV and media deals, Dr. John Lahey, will resign his post if parade directors don’t authorize the inclusion of a second gay group in next year’s parade, the Irish Voice has learned.
Sources also confirm that parade committee chairman John Dunleavy can expect a fresh challenge to his leadership after telling an interviewer at a parade event in April that a gay group would “have a problem” securing a spot in the line of march for 2016, after the admittance of a gay marching unit for the first time in this year’s event.
The Irish Voice obtained a letter sent last month by Lahey to Dunleavy and CCd to members of the parade’s Board of Directors in which he wrote that, based on conversations with parade advertisers, including the Irish government via Tourism Ireland, “I have very clear beliefs…on the need to add one more group in the 2016 parade. As chairman of TV and media, I would be happy to lead any discussions with our advertisers with respect to an appropriate second group if the Board of Directors so authorizes me.”
Lahey, president of Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, parade grand marshal in 1997 and now vice chairman of the parade committee, added that if a majority of board members disagree with including another gay marching unit – a decision that will be made in September when the board reconvenes – he will step down from his role as chairman of TV and media so the board can “select a new chair whose views are consistent with the board’s direction on this important matter.
“As we discussed at our recent meeting, I made some decisions with our advertisers’ input for the 2015 parade broadcast with which you and some other directors strongly disagree,” Lahey added.
“I don’t think it is a good thing for us to repeat this inconsistency in 2016, and whoever is chairman of TV and media for the 2016 parade needs the full support and clear direction from the Board of Directors.”
As exclusively reported in last week’s Irish Voice, Dunleavy said in April that any gay group would “have a problem” securing a spot in next year’s march after the 2015 parade included an LGBT unit for the first time, OUT@NBCUniversal, which represents employees from NBC, long-time home of the New York City parade broadcast.
Dunleavy is also offering parade broadcast rights to other local networks in retaliation against NBC being part of the compromise to include OUT@NBC. WNYW Fox 5 passed on the offer. Dunleavy has also contacted WPIX 11.
Dunleavy made his recent remarks about including gay groups in a video posted on the parade’s official Facebook page. After last week’s Irish Voice report that was also picked up by the wider media, the video was removed.
In the video, Dunleavy, 78, confirmed that he would seek another term as parade committee chairman, and that “changes” would be made for next year’s event, clearly alluding to the presence of identifiably gay marching units.
It is widely expected that Dunleavy will be challenged for the post of chairman by those who are dissatisfied with his refusal to openly welcome the inclusion of a gay group in the line of march, an issue which has dogged the parade since 1991 when the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization (ILGO) sought admission to the parade but was ultimately denied after a series of court rulings.
The inclusion of OUT@NBC in this year’s parade was a long-sought breakthrough, but some critics, led by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, felt the move didn’t go far enough and should have also provided space for an Irish gay group.
De Blasio and members of the New York City Council continue to boycott the march, but the parade sponsors that stepped aside in 2013 returned to the fold this year after OUT@NBC was granted permission to march with the support of Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who served as grand marshal.