This year for the first time New York City played host to World Pride, the global celebration of the LGBTQ community
That meant that the already huge parade reached a record-breaking size, with thousands marching and an estimated four million lining the streets this weekend, in the largest public event in the city's history.
Among the marchers once again was the Irish LGBT group the Lavender and Green Alliance, which has flown the Irish flag in the parade since 1994, marching behind their “Amach le Cheile – Out Together” banner.
“Early in the morning, the phones were ringing with our family and friends from back home in Ireland calling to wish us a happy Pride and others calling looking to join us,” Brendan Fay, one of the founders of the Lavender and Green organization, told the IrishCentral.
After a four hour wait in a carnival atmosphere, the Irish LGBTQ group finally led the huge Irish section in the Stonewall 50 World Pride parade, stepping off from 30 Street between Fifth Avenue and Madison around 5.20 P.M.
“We were celebrating 25 years of activism and grassroots organizing in Irish America,” said Fay. “Our theme this Stonewall 50 is to celebrate and remember those who paved the road for us in Ireland and in Irish America. Our posters recalled LGBTQ friends and activists in the struggle, including lovers, companions, and movement pioneers.”
Lavender and Green co-organizer Kathleen Walsh D'Arcy was delighted by the roar of welcome that greeted the Irish group on Fifth Avenue. “The pre-parade party at Churchill’s got everybody warmed up and the post-parade party at Tir na Nog was also fabulous. I want to give kudos to the Irish Consulate staff for all the planning that clearly went into this great Irish Pride Day,” she said.
Walsh D'Arcy was referring to the work of The Consulate General of Ireland, who for the second time fielded a contingent of over 350 Irish marchers of all ages, orientations, and backgrounds led by Irish Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone and the Irish Consul General, Ciaran Madden.
“The absolute highlight was Minister Zappone dancing on the front of the float with her arms extended,” says Walsh D'Arcy. “The DJ on the Irish float, Fiona Walsh, was playing the most amazing dance music but when the Minister ran up to the Lavender and Green Alliance group, who were carrying posters of deceased LGBTQ leaders and heroes, including a photo of the Minister’s late wife Ann Louise Gillian (who died suddenly in 2017) it was a real moment,” D'Arcy said.
“The Minister carried her wife’s poster for several blocks and then ran back with it to the Irish float, where she danced and held it high. In this way, she brought her beloved spouse to World Pride in New York this year. It was an unforgettable sight that brought happy tears to our eyes.”
Thousands marched and an estimated four million lined the streets as the record-breaking crowd came to honor the 50 anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising and the first ever World Pride to be held in the United States.
The Consulate, together with the Lavender and Green Alliance, brought together many Irish businesses, sporting, cultural and heritage organizations, to celebrate the true diversity of the global Irish family.
Sean OhAodha, the Deputy Consul General, recalled the long wait to take the street with amusement. “There was a garage right beside where we were waiting and the guys came out on put on some loudspeakers. At one point they realized we were Irish and started playing Ed Sheeran's Galway Girl and the crowd went wild, breaking into song. We were waiting for a long time, but there was a great spirit, and it became kind of a street party before the actual parade.”
On the evening before the march, Minister Zappone attended The 34th, a film that chronicles the long road to marriage equality in Ireland, at a special screening the Irish Arts Center where she later participated in a question and answer discussion with author Yvonne Cassidy.
Minister Zappone was also presented with the Global Luminaries Award for her LGBTQ activism by Heritage of Pride, the organizers of New York Pride parade. Heritage of Pride selected Ireland as the first country to ever receive this award to acknowledge that the citizens of Ireland are supporters of the LGBTQ community, and to encourage citizens of other countries to “follow Ireland’s lead on advocating for social justice.”
For Deputy OhAodha the sights and sounds were personal as well as professional. “I used to march in Dublin and at that Pride march you would walk with your friends and you'd see loads of people you knew, it had a real community feel,” he told IrishCentral.
“I wasn't as excited about marching in this big and rather corporate parade to be honest, but marching alongside the Irish at it made it feel much more of a kind of a community event and that made it kind of nice. We had an unforgettable day on the avenue.”
Lisa Fane, the General Manager of The Irish Rep and one of the founders of the Brooklyn Irish LGBTQ Organization, told the Irish Voice, “It was epic day it and I'm so proud of the way the Irish consulate really took care of us. They put together these amazing bags, t-shirts, and buttons Irish flags and the rainbow flag.
“I feel like the great response we got along the parade route was because parade-goers know who we are because of the 2015 marriage referendum in Ireland. I just felt a lot of energy and a lot of love and excitement along the parade route. That's why I have always loved marching with the Irish.”
For the past two years the Irish government has gone all out, Fane says. “They got a float, they organized contingents, they didn't just sort of put their little toe in the water. It was a powerful statement to the Irish community here and at home and I'm very proud of what that says and means.”