It appears New York Mayor Bill de Blasio will again boycott this year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade on Fifth Avenue because of the lack of an Irish gay group in the line of march, multiple sources have told the Irish Voice. A non-Irish gay group from NBC, OUT@NBCUniversal, will march.
On Tuesday, City Council Member Daniel Dromm of Queens confirmed to the Irish Voice that a majority of council members, including Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito, will not take part in the parade. The council formally boycotted and withdrew its banner from last year’s march in protest, and plans on doing the same for 2015, Dromm confirmed.
“I won’t march until an Irish gay group can march,” Dromm told the Irish Voice.
“And there will be no council banner in this year’s parade – of course there won’t,” he added.
The decision by the parade committee to allow a gay group to march next month for the first time – OUT@NBCUniversal – came about for corporate reasons only, Dromm said.
“It’s not acceptable to us,” Dromm added. “We’ve been struggling for 25 years to have an Irish gay group in the march and they still won’t allow us to march.”
When asked if de Blasio should march on Fifth Avenue next month, Dromm was adamant.
“No,” he said. “I hope no elected official takes part in the march until an Irish gay group is allowed.”
City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer of Queens agrees.
“Once again I will not march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade,” Van Bramer told the Irish Voice.
“This parade is still not fully inclusive of the thousands of New Yorkers who have been turned away for decades from representing their heritage. Until all New Yorkers are able to represent themselves freely and march as proud members of our city’s vibrant Irish and Irish American LGBT community I will continue to boycott this parade.”
Multiple calls and emails to the mayor’s press office went unreturned as the Irish Voice went to press on Tuesday afternoon. Viverito’s press secretary also declined comment on the parade.
But sources have told the Irish Voice that it’s highly unlikely the mayor will join the line of march for 2015, even after the announcement by the parade committee last September that a gay group from NBC, which broadcasts the parade, would be allowed to march with its own banner – a development first reported by the Irish Voice.
Once the parade committee’s shift in policy became public, de Blasio applauded the move as “progress.”
“What I’ve called for, for a long time, is an inclusive parade. This is a city of inclusion,” he added.
The mayor has not made any public comments since about the 2015 march. De Blasio will march in this year’s St. Pat’s for All parade in Queens on Sunday, March 1 with a host of other elected leaders of the City Council.
The St. Pat’s for All parade was founded by Brendan Fay and Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy 16 years ago. Fay, a native of Drogheda, Co. Louth and a long-time Irish community activist, is also the founder of the Lavender and Green Alliance group.
Asked if he welcomed the participation of OUT@NBCUniversal in the Fifth Avenue march, Fay said he did but that Irish LGBT leaders and groups also need to march.
“The participation of the NBC gay group is looking increasingly like a trick to maintain the parade’s corporate sponsors and ensure that NBC continues to broadcast the parade,” Fay told the Irish Voice.
“I’m not an employee of NBC and that group is very focused on its own LGBT employees. We are happy for them but I think the leadership of the parade needs to make a wider gesture to the Irish LGBT groups.”
Fay told the Irish Voice that the letter he sent last month to the parade committee from 100 Irish leaders asking for an Irish LGBT group to march has received no reply.
“We also received no reply to our own letter of application to march as Lavender and Green Irish LGBT Alliance,” Fay revealed. “I give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and when the participation of the OUT@NBCUniversal group was announced I trusted that for the parade leaders decency would eventually win the day.”
But the more Irish LGBT leaders come to know the details, the less they plan to recommend that the mayor marches.
“Irish gay groups and people are still excluded from Fifth Avenue,” says Fay. “We’re not there yet.”
Fay said his group would “consider” an invitation – which has not been offered – from OUT@NBCUniversal to join them in marching on Fifth Avenue.
“But it has been 25 years since Irish gay and lesbian immigrants first broke ground saying we belong out and celebrating in our own community. I believe there is still time to fix this,” Fay said.
Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy, the co-chair of the St. Pat’s for All march in Queens added, “I want to march in the parade, but I am not able to because the Irish LGBT leadership in New York like Tom Duane, Christine Quinn, Danny Dromm and so many other out and proud leaders are excluded. I want the Fifth Avenue parade to stop being an embarrassment to Irish American leaders.”