Earlier this year, the New York St. Patrick’s Day parade line up included an LGBTQ group marching behind their own banner for the first time. The sky did not fall. The world did not end. But one man’s tenure as chairman of the parade committee came to an end at a committee meeting on Tuesday, 30th June 2015, Irish Central reported.
John Dunleavy, a native of Coole, County Westmeath, has held the position of chairman for more than 20 years… which means he has presided over two decades of a ban on gay groups participating openly that has alienated LGBTQ Irish people in the US and in Ireland and caused ongoing boycotts of the parade.
For many, the NYC Paddy’s Day parade has become a celebration of exclusion and an insistence that there is only one sort of Irish person. It’s an image that has been dramatically at odds with the reality of life in Ireland all along.
“The parade represents our faith, our heritage and our culture,” Dunleavy said in a video interview quoted by Irish Central, which begs the question – whose faith, heritage and culture?
In recent months, Irish voters approved legal status for same sex marriage ahead the United States Supreme Court ruling affirming marriage equality for same sex couples. Arguably, under Dunleavy’s leadership the parade was marching quite a bit slower than the folks back home.
It’s a sad end to a long tenure. Dunleavy’s determination to hang on and force everyone to march to the beat of his drum is probably less shocking to the children of his peer group of Irish immigrants to the USA than to it is to anyone else.
He arrived in America in the 1960s from the rural village of Coole. Typically, his was not a generation that wanted to leave Ireland and stay away. His is a generation full of men and women who left this country with broken hearts, praying to earn enough money to come home in a few years. But a lot happens in a few years. People fall in love, settle down, and get quite used to life in the new country, but all the while their point of view remains back home – not only in the place they left but at the time they left.
That time and place can remain utterly frozen in an emigrant’s mind, no matter how much the actual times and the actual place change. Ultimately, it is a sad fate to be unable to cope with the reality of change and no one can stop the rest of the world from marching forward.