Michael is first Limerickman to lead New York's St Patrick's Day parade

Michael Dowling will make history this week

Norma Prendiville


Norma Prendiville

Michael is first Limerickman to lead New York's St Patrick's Day parade

Michael Dowling set for historic role

KNOCKADERRY’S Michael Dowling will make history this week when he becomes the first Limerickman to lead the St Patrick’s Day Parade in New York.

“It is a wonderful honour to be able to lead the parade. I am excited about it,” said the man who was selected last October to be grand marshal of the 255-year-old parade.

“There will be a feeling of pride. I wish my parents were here. They would like this. They would appreciate it,” said the son of Jack and Meg Dowling, who was born into a small cottage in Knockaderry but worked his way through school and college.

But Mr Dowling, who heads up Northwell,  the third largest not-for-profit health care system in the US with over 61,000 employees and turnover of over $9b , will have plenty of Limerick people to support him in his historic role.

Mayor Kieran O’Hanlon will lead a delegation of three councillors and officials from Limerick City and County Council and there will also be a delegation of Garda officers as well as the Munster Rugby Supporters Choir.

Crucially, however, many of Mr Dowling’s family and friends are travelling over for the occasion.

“We are so proud. It is totally unbelievable. But looking back it is not surprising because he has worked so hard all through his life,” ” Mary Dowling Geaney, Michael’s only sister, said at her home in Knockaderry this week.  “He has achieved so much. This is definitely the pinnacle. We are very very proud of him.” His brothers Joe, Sean and Pat (now chief executive of Clare County Council) are also expected to march in the parade.

But Mr Dowling revealed that he doesn’t make the decisions about the marching order. “There are 200 marching groups,” he pointed out. But, he continued, the 69th Fighting Irish regiment will be in the lead. “I go next,” he said, and he will be followed by various dignatories and then his family members, including his wife Kathy, daughter Elizabeth and son Brian. “Then I believe it is Limerick, followed by Clare.”

“Let’s hope the weather is going to be nice,” Mr Dowling continued. He has been very busy in the run-up to the parade, attending ceremonies organised by various Irish associations and county associations.

“There is a wonderful history there. Some of them go back 140/150 years,” he explained. “It has all been enjoyable.”

He has also had to deal with a lot of media but says the issue of Irish illegals and Irish undocumented has not been raised with him by reporters.

“Obviously people are concerned about the whole immigration issue,” Mr Dowling said, pointing out there were an estimated 50,000 undocumented Irish in the US.

 “People are aware of that. People are working on that,” he said.

But he continued: “People have been good in trying to keep politics out of the parade.”

However, he admitted, it has come up at some of the pre-parade events he has attended. “I have mentioned it once or twice. But everybody is looking at the opportunity to celebrate the Irish heritage. That has been the primary focus.”

But he is looking forward to the big day which begins early and includes Mass in St Patrick’s Cathedral before he leads the parade from 44th Street up Fifth Avenue to 79th Street and eventually ends with a Black Tie Gala Ball.