THE NEW YORK St Patrick’s Day committee has allowed an Irish LGBT group to march in the 2016 parade, carrying a banner, for the first time in the event’s history.
Speaking to TheJournal.ie from Queens this evening, Louth man Brendan Fay called it “a stunning announcement” and a “marvellous moment.”
During a board meeting of the committee, it was decided to accept the application of the Irish LGBT group the Lavender and Green Alliance, of which Fay is a co-founder.
This is it. This is a historic moment. It’s amazing.
The landmark decision appears to bring an end to a 25-year struggle by Irish and Irish-American LGBT activists to openly take part in the world’s largest St Patrick’s Day event.
In a statement, Fay added:
We have been on a long and winding road to equality, a road marked by painful exclusion and years of protests and arrests.
With this decision, we are transformed from cultural outsiders to insiders who can share in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, a vital expression of our heritage and culture
The move comes amid increasing pressure on organisers to allow for a fully inclusive parade.
In 2014, Bill deBlasio became the first New York mayor in a generation to boycott the event, due to the ban on openly gay groups.
In March, after Guinness withdrew support from the parade, a group of LGBT employees of TV sponsors NBC were allowed to take part, but some activists regarded this as an unsatisfactory compromise.
In July, John Dunleavy was ousted as chairman of the committee, and replaced by Quinnipiac University president Dr John Lahey, who had been lobbying internally for the inclusion of LGBT participants.
In a statement sent to TheJournal.ie, Lahy said:
Since 2016 marks the 100th Anniversary of the Easter Rising, the birth of Irish independence, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade March 17 is a special opportunity for renewed commitment to Irish values and traditions, and the Irish role in the 21st Century.
We are working with the Irish government in this anniversary year to teach our young people the lessons of sacrifice and heroism, of love and tolerance, embodied in the Irish spirit.
Irish politicians have traditionally taken part in the parade during annual St Patrick’s Day trips to the United States, with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan marching in 2014 and 2015.
Last year, however, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton publicly vowed not to participate, “unless progress was forthcoming” in adding LGBT groups to the fold.
Brendan Fay, who has been arrested several times while picketing the parade, and 15 years ago helped set up the alternative St Pat’s For All event, concluded:
It will be a great day for the Irish diaspora and for all New Yorkers as we will honor the centenary of 1916 Rising together.
The words from the 1916 proclamation, ”cherishing all the children of the nation equally” will be real and meaningful