Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

New York St Patrick's Day parade organisers taint Big Apple

St Patrick's celebrations in Belfast. Pic John Murphy Aurora PA
St Patrick's celebrations in Belfast. Pic John Murphy Aurora PA

We have often complained about our politicians being locked in the past and lacking the vision required to create the shared future that most people in Northern Ireland want.

But they are paragons of virtue compared to the organisers of the St Patrick's Day parade in New York who have invited, then rejected and then reinvited six PSNI officers to march along Manhattan's streets.

It took the intervention of senior Sinn Fein leaders and Irish Government representatives to get the organisers to change their mind and restore the invitation to the police officers, who will be taking part for the first time alongside members of the Gardai. Their invite was withdrawn following a barrage of protests from militant Irish-Americans. Included among them was a voice from the past, Martin Galvin, the former publicity officer for Noraid, the organisation which collected large sums of money from Irish Americans to fund the Provos' terror campaign.

It was people like Galvin who helped sustain the myth that the IRA was engaged in a fight for Irish freedom. And it is this dewy eyed sense of history that many Americans still buy into.

The New York St Patrick's Day parade may be the largest in the world, but it still allows banners calling for England to get out of Ireland – even if Sinn Fein now accepts that any change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland can only be by agreement of all its citizens and the party is a full partner in running the province as part of the UK.

Little wonder that the parade today also includes dissident republicans who share this American dream of a fight for Irish freedom.

It is a dream that can only be sustained by those either ignorant of what the mood in Northern Ireland really is, or who do not want to face reality.

Remember this is also a parade which bans any expression of gay rights, leading to the city's mayor boycotting it for the first time in history. He does more for the reputation of Americans than those who organise this so-called festival.

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