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New Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore has criticized New York St.Patrick’s parade organizers for excluding Gays
"What these parades are about is a celebration of Ireland and Irishness. I think they need to celebrate Ireland as it is, not as people imagine it. Equality is very much the center of who we are in our identity in Ireland."
"This issue of exclusion is not Irish, let's be clear about it. Exclusion is not an Irish thing..... I think that's the message that needs to be driven home."
He made his remarks in a first-of-its-kind meeting on Wednesday with prominent New York Irish gay community leaders and groups at the Irish Consulate on Park Avenue to hear their concerns and suggestions.
Although the coalition government in Ireland is just over a week old, Gilmore's tone and public schedule seems crafted to underline that Ireland has entered a new era.
Issues raised at the groundbreaking meeting included the urgent need for LGBT inclusive immigration reform, the need for full marriage equality, and a request for government help in mediating the longstanding exclusion of Irish gay groups from marching with their own banners in the Saint Patrick's Day parade in Manhattan.
In discussion Gilmore indicated that the government was committed to what he called a constitutional convention to discuss the drawing up of a new constitution for Ireland, which should be in place for the 100th anniversary of 1916. One of the mandates the government will introduce at the convention will be a discussion to provide a constitutional basis for same sex marriage, Gilmore said.
The Foreign Minister added that a thorough drafting of a modern constitution for Ireland would be preferable to a series of piecemeal amendments. "Our present constitution is very robust but it was written in the 1930's. We feel there a need for a fresh look," he said.
"Ireland has changed. It was not that long ago that homosexuality was decriminalized in Ireland. I don't think it’s courageous at all to have this meeting. It's a normal part of the work we should be doing.
"For the majority of Irish people being gay is no longer an issue. That's not to say that there isn't resistance - I expect that if we come to the point of same sex marriage at the convention of course the extreme right will push back against it," Gilmore said. "But issues of equality are issues that have to be taken on," he added.
Political and public service reform will be the most pressing parts of the new governments agenda Gilmore said, but he added that he also anticipates major reforms in the social sphere too.
"Our priority is to get the economy moving again, get growth back into the economy and sort out the problems with the banks," Gilmore told Irish Central. "We expect difficult times but we're up for it and we're going to do it."
Attendees at the meeting included Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy and Brendan Fay, Co-Chair's of the inclusive Saint Pats For All parade in Queens; Council Member Daniel Dromm Chair of the Immigration Committee; journalist and New York Times contributor Michael Meenan; Father James J. Morris, priest and social worker and Sean Cahill, Managing Director of GMHC.