By Ray O’Hanlon
Following a recent critical verbal volley directed at New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade board chairman, Dr. John Lahey, the “Concerned Members of the Affiliated Organizations” group has issued a new statement which portrays Lahey in terms of arguing the board’s corner in different ways – depending on the audience.
In its statement, signed by John Manning and Fr. John Sheehan SJ, CMAO said its goal has always been to work with the “Parade Committee Board” through the duly elected “Parade Committee.”
The statement said: “We have been continually frustrated in our calls for open and constructive dialogue with the board, as represented by its purported chairman, Dr. John Lahey of Quinnipiac University. The problem is that we are never sure which Dr. Lahey will show up because his story changes depending on the audience,” said the statement.
And it continued: “There is ‘Affiliated Organizations Dr. Lahey,’ who recently made a public relations tour for the UIC, AOH and the Emerald Societies, telling their members that they are the heart and soul of the parade.
“Then, there is ‘Board Room Dr. Lahey,’ who informed the educators, policemen, firefighters and professionals that the parade really belongs to the board, and not to the Affiliated Organizations, because they are simply ‘students’ and he is the ‘principal.’ Lost in Dr. Lahey’s analogy is the fact that principals, perhaps unlike university presidents, are held accountable by the community through a democratically elected school board. A principal who tried to eliminate the duly elected school board would not last long in his district.
“’Affiliated Organizations Dr. Lahey’ stated that he regretted the leaking of inflammatory statements by members of the board to the point that he reprimanded them, yet ‘Board Room Dr. Lahey’ has appointed these same members to a newly created, unelected ‘Special Executive Committee.’”
The statement went to draw contrast between what it described as calls for parade peace from the board, and the board’s involving of the New York State Attorney General in the parade’s financial affairs.
The statement said that Dr. Lahey, in his “Affiliated Organizations” guise, had stated to the website, Irish Central, that the Parade Board of Directors had not recognized the November meeting which elected the Parade Committee because of an “ongoing lawsuit.”
“Yet, ‘Board Room Dr. Lahey’ also previously stated that he would not recognize the Parade Committee either because the Parade Committee only serves at the pleasure of the Board, or because the Board did not pre-approve the slate of candidates for the Parade Committee.”
The statement said that Dr. Lahey “still has not offered an explanation regarding the fact that the Parade Committee has not awarded scholarships for the past two years, but at the same time wasted money on expensive public relations events.”
And it added: “Dr. Lahey should also stop wasting the Parade Corporation’s assets in stubbornly defending the reckless actions that are the cause of this lawsuit, and he should discontinue his stubborn and persistent refusal to personally meet with Mr. (John) Dunleavy to resolve their issues.
“Dr. Lahey has also never offered an explanation as to whether the decision to not recognize the Parade Committee is a decision voted upon by the entire Parade Board, or whether it was a unilateral decision made by himself and the ‘Special Executive Committee.’”
The statement said that “the totality of Dr. Lahey’s actions since June 2015” had “inflicted substantial damage” to the good will enjoyed by the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
“He has marginalized countless people of good will who have dedicated many decades of their lives to this parade by his poor judgment and steadfast obstinacy in refusing to work with others.”
The statement concluded that the aim of the CMAO “has always been basic: the people who make up the parade should have a voice is that parade; the Parade Board ought to rule with the consent of the governed.
“These are the fundamental principles that were fought for by the Irish leaders of 1916 and by Irish Americans in 1776. All organizations, those that have marched in the parade from the beginning, as well as those newly joined this year, should have a real voice in the parade, and leadership that engages in dialogue, not carefully tuned spin that changes with the audience.
“The CMAO are calling on all concerned Irish Americans to contact Dr. Lahey to express their displeasure at the divisive nature of his leadership of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.”
The CMAO statement comes ahead of the formal installation, in Antun’s of Queens this Sunday, Feb. 21, of this year’s parade grand marshal, Senator George Mitchell, and his aides.
The CMAO has a website, www.changesaintpatricksnyc.com.