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First woman to lead St. Patrick's Day parade

NEW YORK -- Irish-American broadcaster Dorothy Hayden Cudahy was elected grand marshal of New York's 228th annual St. Patrick's Day parade Tuesday, the first time a woman has been accorded the U.S. Irish community's highest honor.

Cudahy, 66, won an overwhelming majority of the nearly 600 votes cast Tuesday night by members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians at the New York Sheraton. She had lost four earlier bids to lead the March 17 parade up Fifth Avenue.

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As of last weekend, when several men resisted pressure to oppose Cudahy and her only opponent, Mary Holt Moore, there was not any question that a woman would lead the parade for the first time in 1989, the 228th consecutive year the event has been held.

'A woman grand marshal is long, long overdue,' said Martin Galvin of the Irish Northern Aid Committee, one of about 200 marching units comprising the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

'Mrs. Cudahy has a record of service to the community which does honor to both the Irish and to the parade. This is viewed as the highest honor in Irish-American circles that one can receive,' Galvin said.

Cudahy's election came on the eve of the first visit to New York by Britain's Princess Diana, an event that has become a focal point of Irish-American opposition to British rule in Northern Ireland.

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Cudahy was scheduled to address a rally in support of Northern Irish independence Thursday outside the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where Diana was to attend an opera.

A grandmother from Queens who for decades has hosted the 'Irish Memories' show her father created on radio station WEVD-FM, Cudahy became the first woman to seek the title of grand marshal when she ran for election in 1985.

But her nomination was blocked on a technicality: she did not qualify because she was only a member of the ladies' auxiliary of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

She was defeated in 1986, 1987 and 1988 by ever narrower margins, and last year's marshal, Bank of Ireland senior vice president William Burke, predicted after his election that a woman would lead this year's parade.

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