Judging by his comments during the St. Pat’s for All Parade in Queens on Sunday, we should not be expecting New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on Fifth Avenue on March 17 – a development first reported by the Irish Voice last month.
The mayor said that more needed to be done to make the Fifth Avenue parade inclusive and that he was hopeful that negotiations could succeed in having another gay group included in the line of march in addition to OUT@NBCUniversal.
Meanwhile, in another part of the forest, Guinness has pronounced themselves satisfied with the inclusion of a gay group for the first time this year and is back in as sponsors of the parade.
The differing reactions frame the issue. Have parade leaders moved far enough to finally end the gays in the parade saga that has lasted 24 years since the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization first asked to march in 1991?
Was the battle about an Irish gay group or about a gay group being included? OUT@NBCUniversal does not fit the definition of an Irish group with few ties to the community, but they certainly fit the LGBT criteria.
Guinness clearly feels the matter is about broad LGBT inclusion, while de Blasio maintains that an Irish gay group should be marching too.
Both sides accept there has been progress. The reality is that within the parade confines it is probable that as much progress as could be achieved has been achieved with the concession of the principle that a gay group can march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade.
The Irish gay groups say after 24 years that leaders needed to do better, but the harsh internal realities of the parade may well have precluded that for 2015.
The battle within the parade is between committee chairman John Dunleavy, who would keep gays out until Judgment Day and pragmatic vice chairman Dr. John Lahey, who wants to defuse the issue once and for all.
Dunleavy has the support of Irish-born leaders of the various county organizations whom he courts enthusiastically. Lahey is working with the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Foundation, a group of professional Irish and Irish Americans who desperately want the issue dealt with.
There is no doubt which direction the eventual outcome will take. By next year it seems definite, the principal having been conceded, that Lavender and Green, the main Irish gay group in New York, will be allowed to march.
That should be announced this year if the groups are not able to find a last minute solution. Brendan Fay, leader of Lavender and Green, has been a dynamic presence in seeking equality but has never forgotten his obligation to help and assist on other Irish community issues such as immigration.
He has also shown with his Queens all-inclusive parade how all this can be accomplished, and that being gay makes you no less or more of an Irish person capable of enjoying St. Patrick’s day.
De Blasio must choose and it is clear which way he is leaning. The Fifth Avenue parade organizers will say they have moved and they are right. This is something that is not fully appreciated elsewhere.
Every effort should be made between now and March 17 to resolve the standoff. Whether that can be done remains to be seen, but the mayor could do us all a favor and help find that way forward. Negotiating is the art of compromise and one should be reached for 2015.