The New York Athletic Club in Manhattan.
By Ray O’Hanlon
A room in a fancy building, warring factions and a man with a reputation as a political dealmaker?
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Eh no, the New York Athletic Club in 2016.
George Mitchell, the man whose name will be forever linked to Northern Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement, will be officially unveiled at the Athletic Club gathering this evening as the grand marshal for the 2016 New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
The venue is the same as it was this time last year, when Cardinal Timothy Dolan was officially invested with his sash of office.
But there are also differences, a reflection of current divisions in the parade organizational structure that have reached all the way into the courts.
One thing that will be obviously different from all those former years will be the absence from the room of John Dunleavy.
The former chairman of the parade and celebration committee said today that he would not be attending, though he has stated his approval of the choice of Mitchell as parade leader on March 17.
“I’m keeping a low profile while keeping my options open,” Dunleavy said.
With Dunleavy absent, the official grand marshal announcement will be conducted in a somewhat different manner that it was last year, this in large part because parade organizers are playing catch-up.
Cardinal Dolan was revealed to the press as the grand marshal for the 2015 parade in the fall of 2014.
At the subsequent January, 2015 gathering in the Athletic Club, the cardinal received his marshal’s sash from John Dunleavy with his aides seated in the room, this after the profiles of the aides were read out, as per tradition, by then parade committee vice chairman, Dr. John Lahey.
There will be no aides present tonight. It is understood they will be introduced at a later event.
Dr. Lahey, the chairman of the parade board of directors, will be present this evening, as will John Tully, who was recently elected to succeed John Dunleavy as parade committee chairman at a meeting of parade-affiliated organizations in Queens.
That meeting was not viewed as a legitimate gathering by the board of directors on the basis of parade by-laws.
But such matters are being pushed to the side this evening as parade organizers move to present a united front behind a grand marshal, much of whose life’s work has been focused on forging united fronts.