News that an NBC affiliated LGBT group has been approved to march in the 2015 New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade under its own banner has been warmly greeted by Irish community leaders since it was announced in the Irish Voice last week.
But reaction to the dramatic announcement has quietly divided some Irish LGBT groups. A planned joint press conference on the steps of the New York Public Library on 42nd Street on Tuesday morning with all three main Irish LGBT groups (Lavender & Green Alliance, St. Pat’s For All and Irish Queers) filing applications to march, in the end saw only the Irish Queers group appear to publicly challenge the parade committee.
Asked why the Lavender & Green and St. Pat’s For All had not attended the press conference on Tuesday, Brendan Fay, a longtime Irish LGBT activist and a founding member of both groups, told the Irish Voice:
“After many conversations with the St. Pats for All committee and Lavender & Green Alliance members, it became clear that we would not be able to be present as community groups for this morning's planned press conference. There will be other moments to discuss the differences between us. We feel this is a moment for bridge building.”
But Emmaia Gelman, a spokesperson for Irish Queers, does not believe real progress has been made on the parade ban issue. Speaking to the Irish Voice she called the recent announcement “a trick to fool sponsors.”
Asked whether Irish Queers would protest the parade and call for further corporate boycotts after they were not invited to the line of march in 2015, Gelman told the Voice: “Absolutely. The work of boycotting the parade led to sponsors exerting so much pressure that the parade committee had to devise this trick.”
Gelman added: “The struggle is not over. The Irish government has advised the organizers that Irish LGBT groups need to march. The corporate sponsors have also demanded it. Just because NBC has reached its own little corporate solution doesn’t mean that it’s over. The exclusion is still fully in place.”
Where Gelman sees exclusion and trickery, Fay sees a historic opportunity, however. “We want to thank the parade committee for their historic breakthrough in extending an invitation to a single LGBT group to march with their banner. However, as an Irish community we need them to complete this step forward. This has been a long road that started in 1990. This is a moment that we believe belongs to the Irish community and not to a US corporate sponsor.”
Why put off until 2016 what we can easily achieve in 2015 Fay asks? “We don’t need to wait for years for what we can celebrate together next March.”
Fay confirmed on Tuesday that he has sent a letter of application to march in the 2015 St. Patrick’s Day parade on behalf of St. Pat’s For All the inclusive parade in Queens, signed by co-chairs Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy and Brendan Fay. Lavender and Green Alliance have also applied to march.
“We are hopeful that with leadership, dialogue and good will we can find our place together on the avenue,” said Fay. “Our message to the parade committee is that we would prefer to build a bridge than drive a wedge.”
Fay says the most common reaction he has been hearing in his discussions with Irish community leaders (since the parade committee’s announcement) is relief “and the hope that we can all move forward and put this ugly chapter behind us.”
“We need a celebration on Fifth Avenue that all Irish New Yorkers can participate in. Political leaders in the city are expressing similar sentiments to me. If this happens it will be because of the commitment, heart and energy of the people who have struggled and worked for this moment for two and a half decades. It will be a gift.”
But asked what happens if Irish LGBT groups still get stonewalled, as has happened in previous years, Fay replies: 'I prefer to trust in the goodwill of the parade leadership. One of my mottos is, "it’s always a yes until it’s a no." There’s a long way between here and March 2015. A lot can happen.'