The national leaders of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the putative patrons of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade, want the city’s parade permit back in the hands of its New York County Board.
In recent years, the permit has been held by what is known as the Parade and Celebration Committee, an essentially two-man organization comprising chairman John Dunleavy and executive secretary Jim Barker. The pair gradually wrested control of the parade after the demise of the late chairman Frank Bierne. They have treated it as their private fiefdom ever since.
Armed with the power of the permit, Dunleavy and Barker have felt empowered to choose grand marshals, cut TV deals and line up sponsors. The details of their transactions have never been released to participating Irish organizations despite repeated requests from at least one of them. The men have operated with accountability to no one but their own narrow self-interests.
This is not to infer any impropriety in their behavior. We simply note that by operating below board, Dunleavy and Barker have done little more than feed an eager rumor mill and insult a wider community that has long felt it has a large stake in the comportment of the parade and its leaders.
An event the magnitude of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade may be, in a legal sense, a private affair. But in spirit it has always been a joyous public celebration. It therefore belongs securely in the hands of a reputable group that operates under a clearly defined set of statutes, not a rogue element of the AOH or any other organization.