Category: Archive

Queens and S.I. parades find common ground

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon This weekend’s St. Patrick’s Day parades on Staten Island and in the Queens neighborhoods of Sunnyside and Woodside share much, even as they diverge sharply in style and content. But when they start to roll, both will be in absolute lockstep when it comes to the desire of participants to simply have a good time. And the organizers of both events will be hoping for exactly the same thing on the big day: good weather and all controversies left in the wake of marching feet. Staten Island has been the center of a storm over its grand marshal, Councilman Jerome X. "Jay" O’Donovan. O’Donovan is pro-choice on the abortion issue and his selection for the highest parade honor prompted a leading local priest, Monsignor Peter Finn, to boycott the event. In protest against O’Donovan’s grand marshalship, Finn will celebrate Mass for the unborn and peace in Ireland in St. Peter’s Church. "I have not advertised the Mass. Whoever elects to show up, that’s fine. The Mass is an alternate opportunity, a prayerful gathering for the unboirn and for peace and justice in Ireland," Msgr. Finn told the Echo. A few miles away, parade marchers will gather for a morning Mass at Blessed Sacrament church before they step out at 12.30 p.m. in honor of not just St. Patrick, but also Irish heritage and culture in its broadest sense. "As long as the wet stuff stays away, we’ll be fine," said parade organizer Bill Reilly. Reilly said that the parade would have even more bands than had been planned before two Catholic schools bands pulled out in support of Msgr. Flynn’s protest. The parade was also now expected to include "Rolling Thunder" a Vietnam veterans cycle club whose members would be present to honor O’Donovan, a former Marine who won two Bronze Stars in Vietnam. The nearest thing to rolling thunder in Sunnyside will be provided by Irish/African and Korean drummers, all part of a self-consciously "inclusive" event that has gone out of its way to include Irish gay marchers, including members of the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization. But like his Staten Island counterpart, Queens parade chairman Brendan Fay is now mostly hoping for decent weather for his parade which kicks off at 1 p.m. at 43rd St. and Skillman Avenue. "This parade is about bringing people together and is beyond the issue of sexual orientation," said Fay. Not surprisingly, there are some who take issue with that view. "It’s important to go on the record to state that the event does not enjoy community support," said Patrick Hurley, the veteran immigration reform campaigner who is spearheading an effort by the local branch of the Republican Party to label Fay’s parade as an "extreme left wing demonstration" that irreverently misuses the name of St. Patrick. Fay and Reilly, battling on different fronts for their respective parades, are sticking to their scripts. "This will be a bigger, better and more colorful parade than last year," said Fay. "I hope we’ll move on to a new beginning," said Msgr. Finn. "I know one thing," said Reilly. "On Monday morning the sun will come up and God willing I’ll have my coffee and read my paper." He will read about himself no doubt. He might also take note of another parade, not too many miles away, where St. Patrick was honored, argued over, but simultaneously embraced by all who, despite argument, seemingly fit the ever broadening definition of what it means to be Irish in the Year of Our Lord, 2001.

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