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Inside File Dec-line of march

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

There is anger and upset in certain Manhattan neighborhoods, especially Yorkville on the Upper East Side, over the fact that the St. Patrick’s Day Parade was stopped in its tracks on 86th Street and Fifth Avenue. Until this year, the parade turned right at 86th Street and headed for the avenues east of Lexington. But, according to a New York Times report, the decision was taken by parade organizers to trim the route this year because they didn’t want to send marchers in the direction of the bars on the East Side.

"IF" has heard that other factors were in play, not least the sentiments of folks in the loftier reaches of Fifth Avenue who are not especially enthused by the march outside their front doors. Indeed, word is afoot that next year’s long green line could be cut back all the way to 72nd Street.

If that comes about, it will mean that the crowds will be jammed into a roughly 30-, as opposed to 40-plus-block parade route. That might make the crowds look bigger but one good thing about the upper reaches of the route as it presently stands is that the crowds tend to be thinner, thus allowing parade watchers with young kids a chance of actually seeing things without having to battle the crush so evident around St. Patrick’s Cathedral or the main reviewing stand in the 60s.

As for this year’s trimming of the march route, the Daily News reported the change the day before the parade in its Daily News Express commuter paper and on the parade day itself in its main publication. But the New York Post, which carried that "official" line of march — the one that caused parade spectators so much grief due to inaccuracies — reported on St. Patrick’s morning that the parade would turn right on 86th Street as per usual and march off into the green mist toward the east side avenues and their dens of liquidity.

Presumably, the lines of communication between the parade committee and the Post aren’t humming on all cylinders, deals or no deals.

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Budding Bush

Many take the view that George W. Bush has no natural inclination to get stuck into the thorny thicket that is the wee North. But no president is an island and in the ebb and flow of Washington politics, even the most powerful find themselves being pushed and pulled into positions on issues they would likely avoid if left entirely to their own devices.

And so with Bush, who uttered his first verbal commitments to the peace process on the day before St. Patrick’s Day. For those with functioning memories, the scene was reminiscent of the slow greening of Ronald Reagan, a president who was always well disposed to all things Irish in a mushy, emotional sort of way, but who was also not initially inclined to cross the barbed wire perimeter thrown around the North by Margaret Thatcher.

As was the case in the mid-1980s, political forces seen and unseen in Washington are now, ever so delicately, but steadily, positioning Bush so that he eventually emerges, chrysalis-like, as a figure in his own right in the quest for a lasting settlement.

Unlike Reagan, however, it is not yet possible to pinpoint one particular individual who is steering Bush in this new direction. In Reagan’s case, it was the late speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Tip O’Neill, who provided much of the impetus that resulted in Reagan nudging Thatcher in the direction of a concordat with the troublesome Oirish, ultimately the 1985 Anglo-Irish accord. O’Neill, as recently reported in the Echo, is the subject of the new book "Tip O’Neill And the Democratic Century," by the Boston Globe’s Jack Farrell.

"IF" has been casting a jaundiced, post-St. Patrick’s Day eye over Farrell’s tome and could not but smile at a few lines penned by Reagan to Frank Sinatra. At one point, O’Neill was giving the Gipper an especially hard time of it. "Tip has joined the chorus back here that’s bent on a lynching, with me in the noose," Reagan wrote Ol’ Blue Eyes. Sinatra responded by suggesting that Reagan make O’Neill ambassador to Ireland. Reagan, in the end, did it his way and managed to strike up a tolerable working relationship with the big man from Massachusetts.

Biden on board

Dennis McMahon is not a man to take a refusal lying down. The Brooklyn-based attorney has been sending broadsides in the direction of the U.S. Postal Service in an effort to secure a commemorative stamp marking the 200th anniversary of the death of Commodore John Barry, "Father of the American Navy." Barry passed on to that great captain’s cabin in the sky in 1803, but given the fact that commemoratives are planned well in advance, time is of the essence. So McMahon was pleased indeed with a recent letter from Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, who pledged his support for the Barry stamp campaign.

"I greatly value the contributions Commodore Barry has made to our national history and you will, therefore, be pleased to learn that I have written a letter to the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee asking them to issue a stamp honoring him." The letter, being from a senator and all, winged its way to McMahon stamp-free, but this is clearly a big breakthrough for the Barry stamp effort. The hard work of dedicated individuals did much to bring about the issuing of a Famine/immigration stamp by the post office a while back, but it was the entry into the fray of a U.S. senator, Ted Kennedy, that finally persuaded the advisory committee to give the immigration stamp the nod.

Ray’s grades

Ray Flynn is a man who grades from the hip. In his recent St. Patrick’s Day statement, the former Boston mayor graded the North’s peace process and its main players. Flynn gave the process itself a C-plus for "sustained effort" but the overall results to date only garnered a D. Bill Clinton got a B-plus, Tony Blair a C, Bertie Ahern a D-plus, Albert Reynolds a B-plus, Gerry Adams a B, David Trimble a D, George Mitchell a B-plus, John Hume a B, "People in the North" got an A (all of them?) while the U.S. State Department (boo, hiss) managed a lousy F. And oh, lest we forget, the Irish American Press, wait for it, an A-minus. Bejaysus, but Flynnzo’s a man with a discerning eye.

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