Lavender & Green Alliance and their supporters marching in the 2016 St. Patrick's Day Parade.Nuala Purcell

Setting foot on Fifth Avenue as an approved marching contingent, at roughly 4:26 p.m. on St. Patrick’s Day, long-standing members and supporters of the Lavender and Green Alliance were overwhelmed with emotion.

Brendan Fay, Lavender and Green’s co-founder and driving force, cried tears of joy. New York City Council Member Daniel Dromm, marching in his first St. Patrick’s Day parade on Fifth Avenue, was also awestruck. Ditto fellow Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, a grandchild of Co. Wexford who had never marched in the world’s most famous Irish parade before because it excluded an Irish LGBT group.

The Lavender and Green banner, an official part of the parade for the first time, attracted a crush of media and plenty of cheers from the remaining spectators on Fifth Avenue when the 300-strong marching unit stepped off, after 25 years of protests and many arrests over the lack of inclusion.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose boycott of the parade during his previous two years as mayor unquestionably prompted the compromise that green-lighted Lavender and Green’s admittance, marched the entire parade route with the first Irish LGBT group in the march. He was joined by his wife Chirlane McCray and a host of other long-standing activists, including former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and her father Larry, LGBT icon Edie Windsor, and Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy, the beloved co-founder of the Lavender and Green Alliance. De Blasio had marched in the parade earlier in the day with both the NYPD and FDNY contingents.

Smiling faces of those representing the Irish LGBT group, Lavender and Green.

Smiling faces of those representing the Irish LGBT group, Lavender and Green.

“It’s everything I expected and more,” said Fay, who has spent past parades protesting Irish LGBT exclusion – and often being arrested for such.

Walsh D’Arcy said she was sure the day would come when inclusivity reigned on Fifth Avenue, but the reality was “amazing” to take in.

“We are thankful and grateful and so proud. This is how it should be,” she said.

De Blasio and his wife arrived at the Lavender and Green gathering on West 48th Street not long before the group stepped off. The marchers, all of whom sported lavender and green sashes, were in a joyous mood, and happy to be done with the decades of protest which saw them hold banners along Fifth Avenue when the parade reached the 57th Street.

The chairman of the parade’s board of directors, Quinnipiac University President Dr. John Lahey, welcomed Lavender and Green at the start of their march, and also greeted the group, along with the parade’s long-time executive secretary and logistics head Hilary Beirne, at the 62nd Street grandstand.

Lahey has championed the inclusion of an Irish LGBT group in the parade, and has praised the 2016 march as being the “most inclusive” ever.

(The Irish Voice newspaper will have a comprehensive report next Wednesday on the Lavender and Green debut on Fifth Avenue, and interviews with the group’s supporters.)