In a shock move, hundreds of firefighters including firemen from New York and Ireland have been barred from the Savannah, Georgia parade because of repeated drinking violations.
Savannah host the largest parade in the south and claims to be the second largest in the nation after New York.
The group which marches under the banner “Our Nation’s Firefighters” and has units from all over received a letter from the Saint Patrick’s Parade Committee banning them from the parade because of repeated violations of the no alcohol policy. The committee held a press conference on Monday night to explain their decision.
“I was shocked,” firefighters chairman James Grismer told the local media, WTOC 11. “If I had gotten the letter months ago I might have easily handled it but it is certainly the eleventh hour.
“And there are literally hundreds of very angry people out there and I'm thinking about the hotels here in Savannah,” said Grismer. “There's going to be a lot of cancellations.”
New York firefighters may be issued a separate last minute invitation according to one report, given their popularity after 9/11
“It's like being disgraced or dissed but there's little I can do,” said Grismer. “They tell me there's no appeal. But I would like the parade committee to at least understand the depth of our hurt.”
Grismer denies the firemen were drinking during the parade but the parade committee begs to differ.
"The firefighters were noted to be drinking before the parade, which must certainly shock people that somebody may be drinking before the parade," said Grismer. "The second thing was that the men were drinking in the line of march. That is untrue. This is closely monitored because of an incident in 2007."
New York firefighters were removed from the parade under similar circumstances that year.
However parade organizers beg to differ, “We went in depth with this and had major discussion on this more so than any other unit that's in the parade concerning the issues we've had in the past,” said parade chairman Brendan Sheehan.
“It's not that we want to limit anybody having fun,” said Sheehan. But if you want to have fun and drink alcohol do it outside of the parade route. Do it where there's no possibility that you're going to harm somebody ‘cause you're driving a vehicle and you're marching in the line and that you're going to hurt somebody in the parade.”
Here’s WTOC 11’s report: