Category: Archive

Staten Island marches on despite boycott

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

The ranks were a bit thinner than previous years and the pre-parade Mass was delayed by a bomb scare, but after weeks of tension surrounding the choice of grand marshal, the Staten Island St. Patrick’s Day Parade marched into history last Sunday.

New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was but one of a large contingent of politicians in the line of march, though Giuliani’s fellow Republican, Borough President Guy Molinari, stayed away in protest.

"The weather wasn’t too good, but the parade itself was great," parade organizer Bill Reilly said. "There were only a couple of protestors along the route."

In the weeks leading up to the parade, Reilly had to vigorously defend the parade’s choice of grand marshal, city councilman Jerome X. O’Donovan.

O’Donovan’s pro-choice position on the abortion issue prompted a Staten Island priest, Msgr. Peter Finn, to boycott the parade.

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Finn instead said a Mass for the unborn and for peace and justice in Ireland.

The event attracted a crowd estimated at somewhere between 600 and 800 people, most of whom would likely have been parade spectators in previous years.

"Everything, quite frankly, went better than we had anticipated. The church was full for what was a prayerful and nice celebration," Finn told the Echo.

Finn said that he felt that his decision to stay away from the parade had given people "a greater understanding of what we’re about."

Finn had objected to the selection of O’Donovan as grand marshal by Reilly and other members of the parade committee, all members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

Hibernians who supported O’Donovan, a decorated Vietnam veteran, attended Mass at Blessed Sacrament Church before the parade but were perturbed to find police bomb squad sniffer dogs when they arrived.

"It turned out that there was no bomb, but still that’s not what you want in a church," Reilly said.

Msgr. Finn, whose Mass was a couple of miles away in St. Peter’s, had not heard about the bomb scare, but he was disturbed by the thought of even a scare in a church.

"Unfortunately, there is always the possibility of a wacko being out there," he said.

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