Brendan Fay and Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy.

Brendan Fay and Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy, the leaders of the Lavender and Green Alliance and the all-inclusive St. Pat’s for All parade in Queens, have another reason to celebrate 2016: both activists who led the charge to ensure LGBT inclusion in the New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade were named by the Irish government last week as recipients of the Presidential Distinguished Service Awards for the Irish Abroad.

The year started on a high thanks to the decision by parade leaders to allow Lavender and Green to march this year for the first time, and now Fay and Walsh D’Arcy are planning a trip to Ireland for the awards ceremony in December hosted by President Michael D. Higgins at Aras an Uachtarain, the presidential residence.

Walsh D’Arcy, upon receiving word from the Irish government about the honor, thought first of her parents.  “They emigrated from Offaly and Tipperary, reluctantly, in the 1920s and found a community of Irish people in New York that worked to preserve Irish music, culture, politics – a community of people who took care of each other!” the long-time community activist told our sister publicatin the Irish Voice.

The LGBT group Lavender and Green march in the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade 2016...making history.

The LGBT group Lavender and Green march in the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade 2016...making history.

“Almost a century later, I am still part of that community.  President Higgins' award for the Irish abroad is a great honor.  I am so proud to be part of St. Pat's For All and to stand with Brendan Fay, our dedicated committee members, and all of the Irish Americans and organizations that have embraced our parade and our mission to cherish all of the children of the nation equally.”

Walsh D’Arcy has been co-chair of the St. Pat’s for All parade since 2006, and is a board member of the Lavender and Green Alliance.

A community organizer, feminist and human rights activist,  she has been active in the New York Irish community all of her life, and lived in Ireland for several years.  Her late husband, Philip D'Arcy, was born in Killusty, Co. Tipperary.  Her daughter, Maeve D'Arcy, is an artist who has lived and studied in Ireland, and her work was exhibited in the Irish Arts Center in 2015.

With St. Pat's for All and Fay's Lavender and Green Alliance, she worked to foster inclusion and equality in New York's St. Patrick's Day Parade and marched up Fifth Avenue for the first time this year behind the Lavender and Green banner.

Fay said that the award “is a huge recognition of the movement to make our St. Patrick’s parades and celebrations more welcoming.  The award is an acknowledgment of the efforts of LGBT immigrants finding our place in the New York Irish diaspora, and honors the Irish community who supported and advocated for inclusion in the face of prejudice.”

Fay, a native of Drogheda, Co. Louth, is co-founder of the Lavender and Green Alliance and in 1999 founded the St. Pat’s for All parade which takes place on the first Sunday of March in Sunnyside-Woodside, welcoming all participants.

Lavender and Green celebrate the Yes vote on marriage equality in Ireland.

Lavender and Green celebrate the Yes vote on marriage equality in Ireland.

The Irish government announced a number of award recipients from around the world last week.  Now in their fifth year, the awards will also honor two more U.S.-based recipients – businessman and philanthropist Norman McClelland based in Phoenix, and Professor Garret FitzGerald, a renowned physician scientist at the University of Pennsylvania.

McClelland, who was cited by the Irish government for his charitable work, is a philanthropist whose “endeavors have spanned the creation of one of the largest urban parks in the world; through sustained support for the St. Mary’s food bank, to whom he gives 80,000 pounds of food per month; and donating the college of management to Arizona State University; to the building of the Phoenix Irish Center, Library and Genealogical Center,” according to a press release.

FitzGerald’s work “has contributed substantially to the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease by low dose aspirin and has benefitted millions worldwide.  He has also won several major international awards for his work on nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and is widely published in leading medical journals.” He will be recognized by the government for his contributions to science, technology and innovation.

Read more LGBT news from the Irish community here