By Ray O’Hanlon
National leaders of the Ancient Order of Hibernians have expressed a desire to see changes in the running of the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
And they want to see those changes in place a month before the 2001 parade steps out on Fifth Avenue.
One development that the AOH leadership wants to see in place is a return to the practice of the New York County Board applying for the parade permit.
In recent years it has been the Parade and Celebration Committee, chaired by John Dunleavy, which has been the permit holder.
But Hibernian leaders now want the County Board to take over this task — and they want the permit issue to be settled by Feb. 15.
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They also want a progress report submitted by the County Board at some point in January.
The national leadership’s desires with regard to the future running of the parade were outlined at a meeting in a New York hotel on Saturday, Dec. 2.
The meeting came against the backdrop of widespread unease on the part of individual Hibernians and groups affiliated to the parade with regard to how it has been run in recent years.
Concerns have covered issues such as the election of grand marshals and corporate sponsorship of the country’s largest St. Patrick’s Day event.
Saturday’s meeting was attended by AOH National President Tom Gilligan and two former national presidents, George Clough and Joe Roche. It was also attended by New York State President Tim Comerford and the president of the New York County Board, David Kilkenny.
Neither parade committee chairman John Dunleavy nor the committee’s executive secretary, Jim Barker, were in attendance although their presence had been requested by the national leaders.
Sources said that the gathering of top Hibernian leaders was virtually unprecedented outside the context of a national convention.
A key area of discussion at the meeting was, according to sources, a request by County Board President Kilkenny that the permit indeed be issued in the name of the AOH as opposed to the Parade and Celebration Committee.
The national leadership, as reported, favors this, but, said a source, is also concerned that the County Board will merely do the Parade and Celebration Committee’s bidding.
"The question of liability was key," said a source. The source said that if the permit were held in the name of the Hibernians, the matter of liability came with it. If there was liability, the AOH also wanted a role in running the parade according to Hibernian statutes.
"It’s a matter of give and take," said the source. "If the permit is held by the County Board, then parade-related meetings would have to be run on guidelines as opposed to whim."
Saturday’s meeting ended with a document of agreement being signed by Gilligan, Comerford and Kilkenny.
"The New York County Board was given clear guidelines. If the County Board gets the permit, certain commitments will be required by the AOH," another source said. "The parade is not bigger than the Ancient Order of Hibernians."
Neither Mr. Dunleavy nor Mr. Barker could be contacted by presstime.