View Full Version : St. Paddys Day: The day you're allowed to be Irish - but not gay and Irish

03-17-2006, 04:34 PM
Remark about gays shadows St. Pat's parade
Associated Press (http://pageoneq.com/rssfeedstuff/index.php?id=6519)
The chairman of the nation's biggest St. Patrick's Day Parade sidestepped questions Friday about his incendiary remarks about gays, as bagpipers and bands marched past hundreds of thousands of flag-waving spectators.

"Today is St. Patrick's Day. We celebrate our faith and heritage. Everything else is secondary," said the chairman, John Dunleavy, who set off a firestorm this week by comparing gay Irish-American activists to neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and prostitutes.

The celebration of Irish heritage, with its green hats, carnations and face-painted shamrocks, was echoed around the country.

In Savannah, Ga., hundreds of people lined the streets, sipping Bloody Marys beneath the live oaks and resting in folding chairs two rows deep for that city's parade, second only to New York in size.

Philip Dressel, 18, spent the previous night in a tent that his mother and aunt had set up Thursday and guarded throughout the day.

"All the families down here take it seriously," Dressel said.

Huge crowds also lined New York's streets at the start of its parade, which typically has 150,000 marchers and up to 2 million spectators.

New York "is the kernel of the whole Irish community in the U.S.," said Joe Sanning, 52, an officer with the Ireland National Police Service in Tipparery, Ireland. "We don't have parades like this at home.

Spectator Mary Sweeney, who moved to New York from Ireland 15 years ago with her two daughters, said, "I want them to grow up knowing their Irish heritage. Everyone wants to be Irish today."

Organizers have faced questions about their attitudes toward gays and have barred an Irish gay and lesbian group for 16 straight years.

The snub led City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is openly gay and of Irish descent, to decline to participate in the Fifth Avenue march, and she blasted Dunleavy over remarks that appeared in The Irish Times on Thursday.

He told the newspaper, "If an Israeli group wants to march in New York, do you allow Neo-Nazis into their parade? If African Americans are marching in Harlem, do they have to let the Ku Klux Klan into their parade?"

About the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization, Dunleavy said, "People have rights. If we let the ILGO in, is it the Irish Prostitute Association next?"

On Friday, a dozen demonstrators organized by a group called Irish Queers hoisted a sign that read, "Troops Out, Queers in," a reference to military groups participating in the parade.

"The comments bring to the forefront a long-standing bigotry, and the bigotry often translates into violence in our communities," said graduate student Emmaia Gelman, 31.

Efforts to let Irish gays march under their own banner date to 1991, when an ILGO application was first rejected by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the group that organizes the parade. Instead, 35 ILGO members were sprayed with beer and insults as they marched with a Manhattan division of the Hibernians and then-Mayor David Dinkins. It was the group's last parade appearance.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who marched in Friday's parade, declined to comment on the dispute, although he had earlier urged the Hibernians to change their stance.

"I've always believed this is a city where all the parades should be open to everybody, and orientation, gender ... should not be the deciding thing," he said.

The mayor marched earlier this month in an inclusive St. Patrick's parade in Queens.


Associated Press Writers Larry McShane in New York and Russ Bynum in Savannah, Ga., contributed to this report.