[caption id="attachment_79984" align="aligncenter" width="300"] New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee Executive Secretary Hilary Beirne (center) pictured at the 2014 parade with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and then Irish Consul General in New York, Noel Kilkenny. Photo by Dominick Totino.[/caption]
By Ray O’Hanlon
New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade Executive Secretary, Hilary Beirne, has responded to what he describes as “negative conversations” directed at himself and others at a recent meeting of delegates to parade affiliated groups in Queens convened by parade committee chairman, John Dunleavy.
And he has also called for unity in the parade as it prepares for what will be an especially standout event in March 2016, the 100th anniversary year of the 1916 Rising.
In a letter to delegates carrying the address of the parade committee in Woodlawn Station, Bronx, Beirne said he was “saddened to hear of the negative conversations arising out of the recent Parade Delegates meeting at Antun's.”
This was a reference to a meeting called by embattled parade committee chairman John Dunleavy.
Beirne said he was deeply concerned for the parade after 28 years of loyal service, “a parade I love dearly and John Dunleavy.”
But Beirne’s letter is also critical of his longtime colleague and ally, Mr. Dunleavy.
Stated Beirne in part: “My goal is to protect the parade and the delegate organizations which are the core of the parade. I want everyone to know I have always respected and supported John Dunleavy and honor his service to the parade, otherwise I would not have worked so closely with him for so many years.
“I informed John Dunleavy in Ireland of the then-upcoming June 30th 2015 Board of Director's conference call, and urged him to attend. Despite 10 attempts to contact him again in the days leading up to the conference call and speaking to his wife, he did not join the call.
“At this June 30th meeting, a number of unanimous votes were taken and officially recorded. John Dunleavy now wants to set aside those unanimous votes. The by-laws of the Parade Corporation were put into place many years ago, with a great deal of thought by AOH members such as my uncle Frank Beirne, John Dunleavy, Jim Barker, Johnny Lynn, Martin Kearns and others, in order to protect the affiliated organizations and the parade itself. These are the same by-laws John Dunleavy now wants to set aside.
“To clarify for everyone, the by-laws clearly state the parade committee has always been a subcommittee of the parent corporation, and that structure has not changed since the corporation formation in the 1990s nor did it change as a result of the June board meeting. John Dunleavy is still the chairman of the parade committee and was not removed by the board. The committee reports and is responsible to both the delegates and the corporation (parent organization) which was a mechanism put in place in the 1990s to protect the parade.
“John and I met on July 10, 2015, after his return from Ireland. At the end of the meeting I asked John to sit down with the board so that we could continue to preserve and protect the parade.”
Unfortunately, continued Beirne, Mr. Dunleavy and others had decided to enter into a legal dispute with the parade committee and the parade board of directors to overturn the votes taken according to the by-laws of the same corporation he helped to establish to protect the parade.
Mr. Beirne continued: “At the delegates meeting (in Queens), offensives were launched against multiple key parade stakeholders who have supported the parade financially and morally for many years: the Irish government, the Irish Consulate in New York, Secretary General of Foreign Affairs, Niall Burgess, the Knights of St. Patrick, NBC, Quinnipiac University, John Lahey, John Fitzsimons, Frank Comerford, the board of directors of the parade and the St. Patrick's Day Foundation.
“The parade celebrates the presence and contributions of the Irish in America so it makes no sense to attack so many key organizers, stakeholders, and supporters of the parade as well as engage in legal action with the same corporation John helped to establish in order to protect the Parade.
“Furthermore, the negative media that is now occurring is drawing unnecessary attention of powerful individuals within NYC and New York State. We all need to be aware of what happened earlier this year to the Dominican Day Parade.
“I believe because I expressed my opinion on how to proceed, and because my view was contrary to John Dunleavy and others, they have now seen fit to attack me personally. This truly saddens me because at a meeting in May I was deeply honored when John, in front of the elected officers, asked me to run with him as co-chairman with the intention that he would step down and I assume to role of chairman.
“At this time, I respectfully ask the delegate organizations not to engage in a dispute or feed any negativity to the media as we have had way too much of that already; instead I want you to get John Dunleavy to sit down with the board.
“If we are to continue in our mission to preserve and protect the parade, the role of the committee must be to unite, not divide the Irish community. We need to build bridges, not destroy them. We need to be united if the parade is to navigate the changes in society and the political climate in order to survive.
“This is a time when we need to be at our strongest. It is vital we protect and preserve this parade that our forefathers built over the last 253 years. Our mission is a sacred trust that we hold but for a short period of time. May St. Patrick guide us through this together.”