By Ray O’Hanlon
Both sides in the dispute over the running of the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade have now indicated that they are ready to meet and talk.
Dates around the middle of June are being considered by both parade organizers and officers of the New York State Ancient Order of Hibernians.
The St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Celebration Committee and the parade’s Board of Directors met in Manhattan last week to review the 2001 parade while looking ahead to the 2002 event.
But the members of the committee and the board to which it now says it is answerable to, also used the occasion of the meeting to again proclaim their independence from the AOH when it comes to the running of the annual march up Fifth Avenue.
In a statement released after the midtown meeting, the parade organizers stated that during the meeting they had "noted" the suggestion of New York State AOH President Tim Comerford that a meeting should take place to discuss the upcoming parade.
Follow us on social media
Keep up to date with the latest news with The Irish Echo
The statement, however, left little doubt that the parade organizers viewed any such meeting as an encounter between distinct and separate entities.
"It will be recalled that it was as a direct result of a decision taken by the Ancient Order of Hibernians at its National Convention held back 1992 to fully disengage itself from itself from the operation of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations throughout the country, that St. Patrick’s Day Parade Inc. was established to be separate and independent from the Ancient Order of Hibernians for the running of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade," the statement said.
The statement added that the parade board of directors recognized "the supportive role" that the AOH "has played" in America’s celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.
"It recognizes also the fact that all members of the Board of St. Patrick’s Day Parade Inc. are members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. Accordingly, the board of Directors agreed, by unanimous vote, to accept New York State’s invitation," the statement said.
"In making this decision," the statement added, "the Board of Directors, while noting the independence of St. Patrick’s Day Parade Inc., emphasized their willingness to consider suggestions of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, or any other such organization, that might enhance the Parade’s ongoing success."
Parade board president Bill Flynn did not directly address the standoff with the AOH in the statement.
"I am delighted by the willingness of the entire Board of Directors to consider the suggestions of all interested organizations as to how we can continue to make the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York the best it can be," Flynn said.
A meeting between a parade board delegation, headed by Flynn, and the AOH’s Comerford is certain to be contentious given the tenor of the board’s statement.
Comerford told the Echo that he viewed such a meeting as a "last-ditch" effort to reach agreement with the parade organizers.
"We’re in communication with regard to a date, but nothing has been finalized," he said. "We are trying to get a final meeting to settle it once and for all. Whichever way it goes, this will be the end of it."