In the presence of the 2006 grand marshal Tim Rooney, and 1992 grand marshal Connie Doolan, Flynn was introduced by parade committee chairman John Dunleavy and vice chairman, Dr. John Lahey.
Flynn said he was very honored to be chosen to lead the parade, in his case the 246th consecutive.
“Frankly I was a bit surprised because there are so many distinguished people in this great city who deserve this more than I do,” said Flynn, who served as U.S. ambassador to the Vatican between 1993 and 1997.
“I’ve always considered the New York parade a national event, indeed an international event,” he added.
Flynn said that in his role as grand marshal he would consider himself the representative of all who supported the parade and of Irish immigrant men and women, past and present.
When it comes to leading the parade up Fifth Avenue on March 17, Flynn said he would be cognizant of what New York City had done for the United States and what the Irish had done for the country over the generations.
“Isn’t it wonderful to know that the son of Irish immigrants can stand before you in this city and wear the sash of grand marshal of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade,” Flynn said.
He said that in his basketball playing days – Flynn was a star at Providence College in the early 1960s – he would often be in New York around St. Patrick’s Day for games at Madison Square Garden.
“I remember Bobby Kennedy walking in the parade,” he said.
Flynn said that his wife Catherine and his entire family would be in New York for the parade.
In his remarks Flynn paid particular tribute to the late Frank Durkan, Paul O’Dwyer and New York Police Officer Steven McDonald who was paralyzed by an assailant’s bullet while on duty.
McDonald, in turn, paid tribute to Flynn with whom he has worked in the effort to bring about a settlement in Northern Ireland.
“In my family’s view, one of the greatest honors a person can receive in America is to be selected grand marshal of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City,” McDonald, who takes part in the parade each year said.
“As an American of Irish heritage, I am proud to say that Ray Flynn, my friend, will be the 2007 grand marshal. I can’t think of an Irish-American more deserving of the honor.” McDonald said.
Irish consul general in New York, Tim O’Connor, also lauded the choice of Flynn.
Flynn, said O’Connor, was “an extremely fitting choice” to lead the march.
Ray Flynn has for years been one of the most familiar political figures in Irish America.
As Democratic mayor of Boston, Flynn took the side of undocumented Irish in the city during the reform campaign of the late 1980s and early ’90s.
He was a central figure in the effort to persuade then governor Bill Clinton to commit to a meaningful policy on Northern Ireland if elected president.
In 1992, Flynn chaired the panel that quizzed Clinton and former California governor Jerry Brown on issues of Irish concerns at a presidential forum in New York.
In more recent years, Flynn’s political stance has covered both main parties although he remains a registered Democrat. In 1999 he took over the leadership of the non-partisan Catholic Alliance, a national Catholic political organization and in 2000 he backed George Bush for the presidency over Al Gore.
As president of the alliance, Flynn advocated greater political participation on the part of blue-collar Catholics across the country.
Flynn spends much of his time these days on the public speaking tour and is frequently called upon by major media outlets as an expert commentator on Catholic affairs and the Vatican.