Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

Kenny to attend parade despite snub

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said it was his intention to travel to New York to take part in the Irish-American extravaganza

Irish premier Enda Kenny has revealed he will march in New York's St Patrick's Day Parade after the city's mayor declared he would snub the celebration.

Bill De Blasio will be the first New York mayor in two decades not to take part in the world-famous procession along Fifth Avenue because of a row over gay rights.

Controversy has deepened in recent years over the organisers' refusal to allow marchers to carry gay pride signs.

But Taoiseach Mr Kenny said it was his intention to travel to New York - as he did last year - to take part in the Irish-American extravaganza which draws more than one million spectators.

"It is my intention to do three parades myself... Washington, Boston and New York," he confirmed.

"As I understand it from the organisers of the New York St Patrick's Day Parade, they allow anybody to walk in the parade but they don't allow them to carry individual banners.

"So it's my intention to be there in New York."

Mr Kenny said he was aware of Mr De Blasio's remarks on Tuesday but hoped he would be welcomed at Gracie Mansion - the mayor's official residence - as was the tradition for visiting Irish dignitaries on March 17.

The Taoiseach said the New York parade was a "great occasion" and Ireland was the envy of many nations for having its national day celebrated globally.

In a news conference at City Hall, Mr De Blasio said he simply disagreed with parade organisers "i n their exclusion of some individuals in this city".

But he planned to take part in other events on the day celebrating New York's Irish heritage and the contribution of Irish Americans.

Two of his predecessors, Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, marched every year in the parade.

But former mayor David Dinkins boycotted the parade in 1993 in a row over the exclusion of gay participants.

Tanaiste (deputy prime minister) Eamon Gilmore said he met with representatives of New York's gay community on St Patrick's Day 2011, and they encouraged him to take part in the main parade.

"Their view was that this was an important Irish American event and that the Irish government should participate in it," he said.

"The New York mayor has, as I understand it, said this is his personal decision and he's absolutely entitled to that.

"The parade is an important event on St Patrick's Day, it's a major Irish American event in New York."

Kathleen Lynch, a junior minister in Dublin, has previously attended an alternative so-called gay-friendly St Patrick's Day parade in New York as a representative of the Irish government.

Organisers of the main parade said gay people were welcome to march, but claimed signs celebrating being gay would detract from the focus on honouring Irish heritage.

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