Diary of One Man’s St. Patrick’s Day in New York
A day like no other for the Irish in America
7a.m and the line outside the mayor’s residence on the Upper East Side of Manhattan or the Saint Patrick’s breakfast is mercifully short.
It is freezing cold and the wind off the East River would freeze a brass monkey.
All inside is friendly and civility though I admit I know relatively few faces. There seems to be a strong labor union presence. The tickets were distributed late which likely led to a call for union members to pack the hall.
De Blasio in person is physically imposing, towering over the Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny who is of average height. Kenny looks like he took the elixir of youth, at age 62, looking at least a decade younger.
At the back, the press pack fret as they always do that there is no story that all is too settled and well. The PSNI story involving protests over the presence of Northern Ireland police has failed to materialize.
Instead the PSNI contingent has materialized. They marched into the breakfast to a very warm welcome, trailing clouds of glory and were widely and warmly applauded.
If Irish Americans are to stand for anything it must be the Good Friday Agreement and the end of violence in Northern Ireland. The reception for the PSNI shows most Irish Americans know that perfectly well
It was completely craven of the Parade Committee to even remotely suggest the PSNI were not welcome. The paltry number of protestors who showed up to rail against them was a fair barometer of the level of support dissidents have in America.
12 Noon: Lunch for me was a very different mission with Chuck Feeney, the great philanthropist who has given over $ 2 billion dollars to Ireland.
We eat at the Pain Quotidien on First Avenue in the 60s and the Irish American legend is in sprightly form, proudly wearing his “Great to be Irish” sweater for the big day.
He has just met Gerry Adams on Saturday so we discuss the peace process, especially the concern expressed by Adams that the process has stalled because of unionist inaction. We also discuss his upcoming meeting with Irish leader Enda Kenny, who he thinks has done a great job with the Irish economy.
2:00 After lunch I make my way to Fifth Avenue and walk alongside the parade for a few blocks. The bitter weather has ensured a smaller than usual turnout for spectators.
As an Irish person it never ceases to thrill to see rows upon rows of Irish and other Americans marching. Sure there are great issues around the parade, but the heart and soul of it remains a very simple expression of pride in heritage and in the values that America is built on.
If only parade chairman John Dunleavy, who apparently wants to stay on until 2016, could realize this is the strongest asset of the parade, not the controversial exclusion of LGBTs.
3:00 The folks at the American Irish Historical Society used to overlook the parade on 81st street before the Bloomberg administration shortened it a few years ago,
Someone jokes that De Blasio might turn it into the shortest parade in America if he doesn’t get his way.
The spectacular home of the society is always a welcome stopover on March 17th, the history and tradition of the society dates back into the 19th century.
Kenny is on his way but dreadfully delayed and when he arrives it is merely a courtesy drop in and off again.
7:00 As for me I end up at my favorite party the Liffey Van Lines one in midtown headed by Danny Moloney the inimitable Clare man who welcomes local officials from all over Ireland who flock to his generous banquet. The Tulla Pipers show up and the restaurant rings to the mighty pipes
It is the perfect end to a long but fruitful day.
St.Pat’s 2014 is in the book and gone for ever. But the warm memories linger on.
10:00:On Park Avenue as I leave Danny’s party, three beautiful young girls pass by bedecked in green. They are looking for directions to an uptown bar they tell me, hot on the trail of three Irish firemen they met earlier.
And so the great game begins and continues as it has for generations of Irish on St.Patrick’s Day – always a day to remember.