It has been quite a week for the New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade, with the changing of the guard that saw John Dunleavy demoted from his overall leadership position to chairman of the parade committee that organizes the marching formation on March 17, and Dr. John Lahey elevated to chairman of the corporation, St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Inc., that is legally recognized to run all aspects of the parade.
Next year’s march will also include a second gay group to join OUT@NBCUniversal which took part this year. It is also expected that WNBC will retain the live parade broadcast rights.
The major developments were exclusively reported on our sister website IrishCentral throughout last week, after the Irish Voice learned of a board meeting that took place on Tuesday, June 30 via conference call that resulted in Dunleavy’s position being clarified to solely include the formation of marching units, and Lahey being elected by board members to run all parade operations with newly elected vice chair John Fitzsimons.
The board meeting was called to formalize the lines of leadership that were established when the parade received non-profit status more than 20 years ago. The meeting was due to be held in September, but it was moved to June after a series of articles in the Irish Voice revealed that Dunleavy was looking to reinstate the anti-gay marching group ban that stood in place until this year. He was also looking to move the TV rights to another network after NBC helped broker the deal to include its LGBT support group in this year’s parade.
Dunleavy was invited to take part in the board conference call last Tuesday as he is one of 16 members. He was in Ireland and did not participate, though sources say there was one silent member on the line.
The native of Westmeath who has chaired the parade committee for 22 years is due back in New York this week. How he and his supporters will deal with his reduced role in the parade is not yet known, but the new leadership plans on assuming control of the parade’s website and Facebook page, which added to the controversy last week with a posting saying that Dunleavy was still in charge despite reports saying otherwise.
The parade committee, which Dunleavy still chairs and which was always assumed to have full control of all aspects of the parade, actually falls under the umbrella of the board of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Inc., a reality which was formalized during Tuesday’s conference.
Lahey has served as vice chair of the parade committee for years – he was grand marshal in 1997 -- and is also responsible for securing media and sponsorship deals. The board met in April of this year and Lahey stated his belief, with the backing of parade sponsors, that a second gay group would need to be included in next year’s march.
Lahey detailed his thoughts in a subsequent letter to Dunleavy which was reported by the Irish Voice last month, and said he would be resign his position if a majority of board members disagreed with his position.
Lahey’s position was affirmed by a unanimous vote of 12-0 after last Tuesday’s board call. The president of Quinnipiac University has vowed to “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,” a statement issued last week said.
The statement, which also confirmed the addition of a second gay group and the likely renewal of the WNBC TV deal, added, “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 NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade, a responsibility it takes quite seriously."