As the Irish Voice is reporting this week, the New York City Council led by Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito will again boycott this year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade on Fifth Avenue, and it appears as if Mayor Bill de Blasio will also follow suit.
The City Council will not have a formal role in the parade, nor will its banner be represented, according to City Council Member Daniel Dromm of Queens. The council will not resume a formal role in the parade until an Irish gay group is given a place in the line of march.
There has been a fundamental change since last year when the newly elected de Blasio refused to march, citing the lack of a invitation for an Irish gay group to take part with its own banner.
The parade has since undergone a seismic shift on this matter, mostly thanks to Vice Chairman John Lahey who leads the enlightened faction in the parade.
The OUT@NBCUniversal delegation will march this year with its own banner, breaking the long held ban on gay groups marching and establishing a vital precedent. They are to be congratulated for their bravery, as is the parade committee for including them.
When it was announced Mayor de Blasio cheered loudly saying it was a great day for New York and diversity.
In addition, the parade committee secured Cardinal Timothy Dolan as grand marshal, giving the move to include a gay group a powerful affirmation. Dolan is to be congratulated for taking on the grand marshal job in a year of such controversy, and for publicly stating that he approves of the inclusion of a gay group in the line of march.
These decisions show a commitment to getting it right at last on the parade and the right of gays to march. It is an issue that has festered since 1993 and must finally be put to rest.
The absence of the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny from this year’s parade, not to mention boycotts by advertisers, is a direct reflection on how damaging an issue it has been for the parade and for the Irish at large.
The national tide of opinion from gay marriage to marching in parades is overwhelmingly towards inclusiveness. Boston and Washington St. Patrick’s Day parades will also include gays this year in welcome steps to end local controversies, especially in Boston where Mayor Marty Walsh has played a stellar role.
Left out in the cold in New York, however, is the Irish Lavender and Green Alliance led by Brendan Fay, the only true working Irish gay group in the city for years now.
They rightfully feel offended by being excluded in favor of a group with no background on Irish issues, and feel they should have come first.
Fay’s group should be guaranteed a place in the parade in 2016 at a bare minimum, or a way should be found to have them march this year with OUT@NBCUniversal.
De Blasio is already held in deep disdain by many of the cops and firefighters who heavily populate the parade.
His relationship with Cardinal Dolan will also undergo a tough period if he refuses to march now despite the fact that a gay group will have a place on Fifth Avenue.
Parade politics are complex and labyrinthine from the outside. This year, however, the deal seems clear.
The parade and the cardinal have moved and allowed an identifiable gay marching group. Can the mayor justifiably claim they have not gone far enough and refuse to march?
On balance there is an historic opportunity to end this sad saga once and for all. De Blasio should take it by marching this year and also ensuring that Lavender and Green can march next year, or be included with OUT@NBCUniversal.