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Linehan skips St. Patrick’s breakfast: Old beef on the menu

Bill Linehan at last year’s breakfast.

Bill Linehan at last year’s breakfast.

BOSTON CITY Council President Bill Linehan might have had to blush his way through some good-natured ribbing at this year’s St. Patrick’s Day breakfast in South Boston; instead, he’s just earning himself a reputation as a sore loser. After being passed over for the job of host at the breakfast, the Boston City Council president is passing up this year’s event. Instead, Linehan will attend St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Limerick, Ireland, on March 16.

The jocular breakfast is normally hosted by the sitting state senator in a district that includes South Boston and much of Dorchester. But the duty fell to Linehan last year, after the so-called “Southie seat’’ became vacant due to a resignation. Linda Dorcena Forry, a Haitian-American married to an Irish-American, won the special election and the right to host the event, which attracts prominent politicians from across the state. But Linehan balked at giving up the role. He argued that since Dorcena Forry did not hail from South Boston, it would be a break with tradition.

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Linehan’s resistance sounded petty. And it reflected poorly on a city that had moved ahead in terms of diversity since the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations of past decades. He wisely backed off, amid widespread criticism. Dorcena Forry and Linehan ostensibly made nice; the official story was that the whole dustup had been a misunderstanding, that she would host, and that he would help. But he’s chosen not to.

Ironically, this was the kind of episode that’s regularly parodied at the breakfast, where caustic jokes about politicians’ missteps are always on the menu — but where the underlying message is that public officials can put aside their differences. Given his desire to host the event, Linehan of all people should understand the value of using laughter to let bygones be bygones.

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