The Staten Island St. Patrick’s Day parade, traditionally held on the first Sunday of March, seems to be losing stature each year while calls for the event to be inclusive are growing stronger, judging by the 2023 edition of the parade which is believed to be the only one in New York, or at least the greater New York area, that bans gay groups from participating with their own banners.
Once again, the parade organizers, led by long-time leader Larry Cummings, barred the Pride Center of Staten Island and the Gay Officers Action League from marching.
The same day as the Staten Island St. Patrick's Day Parade, however, hundreds of LGBTQ supporters, including New York City Mayor Eric Adams, took part in an annual Rainbow Run, organized in part by the Pride Center of Staten Island, to call for inclusivity.
This weekend @NYCMayor stood with @pridecenterSI for the Rainbow Run — and to send a strong message that we will always stand up for LGBTQ+ rights #onStatenIsland and across our city.— NYC Mayor's Office (@NYCMayorsOffice) March 6, 2023
No matter how you identify or who you love, our city will always embrace you with open arms. pic.twitter.com/kpqRhYWhOh
Speaking at the Rainbow Run, Brendan Fay, the Irish activist and founder of the all-inclusive St. Pat’s for All parade in Sunnyside-Woodside which also took place on Sunday, said: “The refrain was, enough is enough!
"More and more businesses and community leaders, and Staten Island, came out in support.
“People cheered and said enough was enough. Let this be the last year of exclusion.”
Posted by Rainbow Run SI on Sunday, March 5, 2023
Though the pre-parade Rainbow Run went ahead with a robust crowd, the St. Patrick's Day Parade itself, according to reports, suffered this year from lower turnout and a noticeable lack of the usual enthusiasm.
“It used to be a really big, happy event for family and friends,” Andrea Morse, a member of the board of directors for the Forest Avenue Business Improvement District, told AMNY.com. “Now people are mad. There’s been a lot fewer people on the sidelines. The joy has gone out of it.”
The Staten Island Advance noted, “Parade crowds grew from last year’s dwindled showing, affected by poor weather and the severity of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic at the time, but its numbers didn’t rival years past as organizers continued their exclusion of the LGBTQ+ community.
“Marchers and the gathered crowds aren’t the same as those in the past. St. Joseph by the Sea High School and Monsignor Farrell High School were the only high school marching bands that participated in the parade.”
The host of the annual pre-parade breakfast for local politicians, Terence Haggerty, owner of Jody’s Club Forest Irish pub and restaurant, lamented the toll the ongoing controversy is having on the march. Organizers of the breakfast canceled it this year as a show of support for the excluded groups.
“It’s dwindled compared to what it used to be,” Haggerty told AMNY. “It used to be longer, more festive. Now it is slower with less people. Every year, there’s this overshadow.”
GOP Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis, who represents Staten Island in the House, was one of the few political participants. “Nicole joined her Irish constituents in celebrating their heritage & culture at the #StatenIsland #StPatricksDay Parade. She has visited Ireland twice and it is among her favorite countries,” a message on her Twitter stated, with photos of her at the march.
Nicole joined her Irish constituents in celebrating their heritage & culture at the #StatenIsland #StPatricksDay Parade. 🍀 She has visited Ireland twice and it is among her favorite countries. 🇮🇪🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/IOMXsLk76M— Office of Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (@RepMalliotakis) March 6, 2023
*This column first appeared in the March 8 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral.