Time marches on, and so too does the New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade thanks to last week’s historic decision by the parade’s board of directors to invite an Irish gay group to take part in next year’s event.
The move to finally make space for the Lavender and Green Alliance headed by long-time community activist Brendan Fay was a long time coming. The enlightened new parade board leadership, starting with chairman Dr. John Lahey, knew that for the parade to prosper next year and beyond, an Irish gay contingent had to be represented on Fifth Avenue.
Those opposed to a gay group participating in the parade are absolutely entitled to their opinion, but they also must bear in mind the following: the parade was shunned by sponsors two years ago and tagged as discriminatory because of the no gay banner policy. Politicians led by Mayor Bill de Blasio boycotted the march and said they wouldn’t take part until an Irish gay group was welcomed. And the possibility existed that at some point the city would act – perhaps by shortening the march – if the status quo persisted.
These realities were set to come to the fore again in 2016, a hugely symbolic year with the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising. The storyline would have once more shifted from a joyful celebration of Irishness in all its forms, to a bigoted parade – and, by extension, a bigoted Irish American community -- that sees fit to exclude gay marching groups.
Is that the kind of narrative our community really needs to deal with? Isn’t it finally time, once and for all, to put this issue to rest? Yes it is.
If the Irish people can overwhelmingly vote for marriage equality in a national referendum, as they did earlier this year, if gay groups can march in parades up and down Ireland each March 17, then surely it’s high time for the New York City parade to get with the program.
A gay group marched last year in the parade for the first time ever with the blessing of the grand marshal, Cardinal Timothy Dolan. OUT@NBCUniversal, the LGBT group affiliated with parade network NBC, did themselves proud on Fifth Avenue, were extremely respectful and thankful for the chance to march, and were well received by onlookers.
In other words, the world didn’t end. And it will still keep turning after Lavender and Green makes its debut on Fifth Avenue.
We’ve said before on multiple occasions that the group, which runs the St. Pat’s for All march in Queens each year, is more than deserving of a place in the biggest parade of them all. Fay has been involved in the local Irish community for decades and is no fly-by-nighter like many of the other protest groups joining the yearly picket on Fifth Avenue.
Parade Committee Chairman John Dunleavy has ruled the march with an iron fist, but he threw one too many punches after this year’s parade when he vowed gay groups would “have a hard time” marching in 2016, and started negotiating with other TV networks for coverage next year.
Dunleavy has worked on the parade for decades, and there’s no question that he has done good things, but if his exclusionary attitude prevailed the parade would suffer greatly. Those who deny this fact are refusing to face facts.
On the day that Fay was given the news that his Lavender and Green group would march next year, the parade finances were found to be in disarray under Dunleavy’s watch, with several expenditures approved that had nothing to do with parade business – a development exclusively reported in last week’s Irish Voice.
So, clearly, it was time for a new team to emerge with a vision for the parade’s future, and for Dunleavy’s role to be lessened. We applaud the new parade leadership’s forward thinking and congratulate Dr. Lahey and his fellow board members for acting in the parade’s best interests.