By Frank Cull
The brouhaha between the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee and members of some of the Emerald Societies has, once again, heated up.
In a letter to AOH National President Thomas Gilligan, Brian Sharkey and Michael Lavelle have filed countercharges against the entire Executive Board of the Frank Beirne, Div. 9, Bronx County AOH for an unwarranted attack on their character and reputation. According to informed sources, Div. 9 is the real home base for the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
In a blistering letter to Gilligan, the Emerald duo had this to say: "At this time Brian J. Sharkey and Michael P. Lavelle are requesting that charges be brought against the entire Executive Board for accepting an illegal/improper motion, thereby defaming us, as a brother, without a proper hearing and against Frank McGrail for making the illegal/improper motion and failing to serve charges on Michael P. Lavelle and Brian J. Sharkey (Article XVIII, Pg. 36, National Constitution). Everything that has been done to date is against the AOH motto of Friendship, Unity, and Christian Charity."
Last year, the Sharkey-Lavelle team questioned Parade Chairman John Dunleavy about the Parade Constitution. Specifically, when it was drafted and how come no one knew about it. Sharkey pressed the issue and Dunleavy’s response was that it was public knowledge. Lavelle then challenged the parade chairman to list where the information was published, i.e. newspapers, at a meeting, letters to delegates, letters to their organizations. Was there a Constitutional Revision Committee? Who approved the constitution and by-laws and any changes?
When unable to answer the inquiry, Dunleavy brought the parade meeting to an abrupt end, Sharkey and Lavelle said. Apparently for voicing their objections, Sharkey and Lavelle were then thrown out of Div. 9. At a membership meeting, Frank McGrail made a motion from the floor to have Sharkey and Lavelle transferred to another AOH division, an obvious payback for questioning the tactics of Dunleavy (who is a member of Div. 9) and Parade Secretary James Barker. The harassment continued as charges were preferred by Frank McGrail against Sharkey and Lavelle. At one Div. 9 meeting, they were asked to leave the meeting by Frank McGrail. Officers of Div. 9 refused to accept their dues at another meeting. At yet another meeting, they were asked to leave under the threat of calling the police to have them removed from the premises.
Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter
Board turns deaf ear
Now that Sharkey and Lavelle have filed countercharges, the next step, according to the AOH Constitution, is for the grievance to be heard at the county level. At the last meeting of the New York County Board AOH, President David Kilkenny in the chair, the charges were read to those County Board delegates in attendance at their annual convention meeting. No action was taken on their correspondence and the charges remain status quo. By not acting on the pending charges, nothing can be done until after the summer months. This was considered an obvious ploy by Sharkey and Lavelle to delay the outcome of their pending charges. In separate letters to the AOH state and national presidents, the Emerald duo has requested that the grievance procedure be moved along, bypassing the County Board, with an eye on upcoming AOH conventions and meetings.
According to a member of the Ad-Hoc Committee to Save the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, another question was raised as to whether the current Parade Committee has "plants" in the larger Irish-American organizations that participate in the March for Patrick.
At the same New York County Board meeting, elections were held and, in a shocker, James Mulvihill, the incumbent recording secretary, was unceremoniously dumped in favor of Thomas Beirne. Mulvihill has gained a reputation as one of the most outstanding and dedicated as well as respected leaders in the Irish American community in New York. Mulvihill is also a past New York County Board president for the AOH.
Beirne, son of the late Parade Chairman Frank Beirne, is a member of Div. 9. It’s no secret that the Parade Committee has a friend in Bob Algar, the current president of the Grand Council of United Emerald Societies. Over in the United Irish Counties Association members of their UIC Executive Board also serve as members of the Parade Committee Executive Board. As for Div. 9, they have Frank McGrail, who will soon make the Guinness Book of Records for having pressed the most charges against fellow Hibernians.
As for Lavelle and Sharkey, their sin is simply wanting the democratic process and for the Parade membership to have a say in everything. At the top of their agenda, is the return of the democratic process in both selecting the grand marshal of the parade, as well as electing the chairman of the march, and a say in what direction the parade is headed. This year, for example, five United Irish County organizations were moved to the front of the parade, thereby ignoring the line of march. The Parade Committee’s clandestine approach to everything has resulted in untold rumors. Mike Lavelle and Brian Sharkey are delegates to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Celebration Committee, representing the Grand Council of United Emerald Societies, and have every right in knowing what goes on in parade matters.
There’s a Ford in your future
The question again arises as to what it takes for the Ford Motor Company to lead the parade every year, despite its former reputation of job discrimination against Catholics in Northern Ireland. What kind of a deal does the Parade Committee have with the Ford Motor Company? The late Parade Chairman Judge James J. Comerford, who served as parade boss from 1965-84 had two rules. One was that the parade would not be commercialized (he once turned down Budweiser and the Clydesdales) and the other was a ruling that prohibited automobiles and floats. The current parade crowd has ignored both of these rules.