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Miracle on Fifth Avenue

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Patrick Markey

Irish movie legend Maureen O’Hara was selected this week as grand marshal for next year’s New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade, a decision that met with positive reactions from the Irish American community.

The Dublin-born actress, who has starred in screen classics such as "The Quiet Man" and "Miracle on 34th Street," said she was surprised and proud of the committee’s decision to select her as the parade’s main honoree.

"All I want is that the next St. Patrick’s Day Parade is the best ever," O’Hara said Monday at a Manhattan press conference announcing the committee’s decision.

Dubbed "Ireland’s greatest export," O’Hara will become the third woman to be chosen to lead the famous Irish march down Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. Dorothy Hayden Cudahy led the parade in 1988 and Mary Holt Moore was the second female grand marshal in 1991.

Although the annual parade has been dogged by controversy over the decision not to let an Irish gay and lesbian group march, O’Hara said she would defer any decision on those matters to the parade committee.

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But speaking on current Irish issues, O’Hara said peace in Ireland was the heartfelt wish of every Irishman, a wish that all were born with.

The 78-year-old actress has appeared in more then 50 films since the 1940s, including "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" and the "Parent Trap," and in numerous television movies. She now spends her time between residences in Upper East Side and West Cork.

Former grand marshals and Irish-American leaders praised the committee’s decision to choose the Irish legend.

"I’m delighted. She looked so beautiful and the whole world knows her," said former grand marshal Hayden Cudahy, who saw the announcement on the television news.

"I’m delighted it’s a woman. She’ll be a credit to us all," she said.

Frank Durkan, an Irish-American activist and attorney, said he had hoped the committee would have chosen former Republican prisoner Joe Doherty, but said he could not quarrel with their decision to select O’Hara.

"She has brought luster to our people and she’s been a credit to the Irish Diaspora," Durkan said.

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