St. Pat's for All
Gazette, March 6, 2019
The New York Times, March 1, 2019
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NBC News, March 13, 2018
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www.nycstatricksparade.org, February 18, 2016
The Advocate, March 05, 2015
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thejournal.ie, February 28, 2015
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The Guardian, March 02, 2014
The Irish Times, March 01, 2014
St. Pat's for All, Inc., March 01, 2014
Times Ledger, February 27, 2014
Irish Voice, February 26, 2014
Irish Central, February 20, 2014
LGBT bans in New York and Boston reflect a conservatism that lags behind the homeland
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Daily Kos, March 15, 2013
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Irish government sends representative to Sunnyside for first time
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YourNabe.com, March 11, 2010
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Irish Emigrant, February 27, 2008
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Quinn Nixes Manhattan Parade for Dublin's Gay-friendly Event
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Marching For St. Pat’s & Inclusion
Gazette, March 6, 2019
By Thomas Cogan
This year’s St. Pat’s For All parade was the 20th annual celebration to make its way up Skillman Avenue from Sunnyside to Woodside.
The parade began two decades ago, in 1999, when a few marchers who wanted to carry a gay rights banner in the grand St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, held as usual on March 17th, were denied permission by the parade committee. That led to the proposal by those banner carriers to have a small parade in Queens ahead of the big one, on the first Sunday in March.
In the following years, the St. Pat’s For All parade proved persistent and popular, enough so that when, a few years ago, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee allowed some lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) presence to march in its parade, the St. Pat’s For All parade creators had more than proved their point but did not declare victory and depart, since St. Pat’s For All had become an institution in itself and continued.
This year’s parade was supposed to step off at noon from its usual launch, 43rd Street and Skillman Avenue. That seemed a good idea, as weather reports predicted precipitation, whether rain or snow, by early afternoon. Just before noon, the sky could be called sunny, and several speakers on the platform declared how fortunate everyone was to have such a lovely day. Between 11 am and noon, speakers drifted in, but the appearance of the one perhaps most anticipated, Congress Member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or “AOC,” was one of the major reasons for the large turnout.
Among them were the parade’s grand marshals, dancer/choreographer Sean Curran and acclaimed international actor Fionulla Flanagan, who were accompanied by Irish Consul General Ciaran Madden. When introduced, Madden said that Ireland had changed considerably since 1984, when Brendan Fay, a founder and most tireless advocate of the parade, left that country “because he had to” rather than hide his true sexuality. Flanagan, her little dog in tow, greeted everyone in Gaelic and said that while politicians boast of bringing people together, the common folk do a better job of it.
On the platform, Brendan Fay got the show started before letting City Council Member Daniel Dromm handle most of the introductions. Dromm introduced Ocasio-Cortez to great applause and cheering. She hailed what she called the parade’s theme of “radical inclusivity,” then stifled laughter as someone cried “socialism!” with an enthusiasm indicating approval. NYS Controller Thomas Di- Napoli followed, saying it was good to be at such a positive function when so much of politics was going in the opposite direction. He deplored the possibility that a “hard” border might soon be reinstated between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, bringing back the bad old days of strife between the two sides.
NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson said it was a fine thing that the Fifth Avenue parade was now inclusive, but then asked the audience to be outraged at the non-inclusive St. Patrick’s parade going on in Staten Island that day, even as he spoke. City Comptroller Scott Stringer said he hoped he could march in Staten Island next year, “for all the right reasons.”
NYC Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer praised Ocasio-Cortez with his favorite word, “amazing,” then said she stands on the shoulders of many activist predecessors, including his mother, who was nearby, maintaining a perfect attendance record at the parade. Other officials were introduced as having perfect records too, including NYS Senator Michael Gianaris and NYC Council Member David Weprin.
Congress Member Carolyn Maloney put in a few words of support, but Mayor Bill de Blasio didn’t speak, nor did Governor Andrew Cuomo, both of them being absent, though they sent representatives with proclamations. Borough President Melinda Katz was present as well.
The march went on to its usual destination, turning left at 56th Street, going a block to Woodside Avenue, turning right and finishing at 58th Street. Attendees enjoyed the music from bands such as The Absurdist Pipe Band (a trio with loud plastic hair and clown outfits), Fogo Azul NYC (“Gotham’s Heartbeat”), and the Hungry March.
How Brendan Fay, L.G.B.T. Activist, Spends His Sundays
The New York Times, March 1, 2019
By Nancy A. Ruhling
Brendan Fay, a filmmaker and activist, is a founder of St. Pat’s for All, a parade in Queens known for its spirit of hospitality.
“As an Irish gay immigrant, I was excluded from all the St. Patrick’s Day parades in the city and arrested when I tried to march in them,” said Mr. Fay, who is from Drogheda, Ireland, and was instrumental in a long-fought and ultimately successful movement to allow the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to march in the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
This year, Mr. Fay’s Sunnyside-Woodside parade, celebrating its 20th anniversary on March 3, will have the Broadway actress Fionnula Flanaganand the dancer and choreographer Seán Curran as grand marshals.
Mr. Fay and his husband, Tom Moulton, a pediatric hematologist/oncologist, will also be marching in the Fifth Avenue parade on March 16, holding a banner with members of the Irish L.G.B.T. group founded by Mr. Fay, Lavender and Green Alliance.
Mr. Fay, 60, and Dr. Moulton, 61, were among the first same-sex couples to cross the border in 2003 to marry in Toronto, Canada. Next, Mr. Fay helped couples like Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer navigate the process. It was Ms. Windsor’s 2013 U.S. Supreme Court case that led to the overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act.
Mr. Fay and Dr. Moulton share their two-family rowhouse in Astoria, Queens, with their cats, Finn and Fionnula.
MEOW I’m up by 6:30. I just wake up, or one of the cats nudges me. I take a moment to say hello to the morning and take a breath. I repeat what my dad always used to say, “It’s a good day, another day above ground.”
JOGGING, LISTENING: While Tom’s sleeping in, I feed the cats, rinse my face and hands and get ready for a jog in Astoria Park. I kiss Tom goodbye, and I take a cup of coffee with me. The park is only a 10-minute walk away, but it can take me 20 or more minutes to get there because I’m stopping to say hello to people in the neighborhood. I run along the side facing the East River. I begin by listening to the “On Being With Krista Tippett” podcast or Marian Finucane on Raidió Teilifís Éireann. I end with reflective music by folksingers Jack Harrison or Mercedes Sosa.
PHONE HOME: Once I get home, I start making a bowl of porridge — oatmeal, walnuts, raisins and milk — and put the kettle on for tea. I’m the middle of seven children, and I call my sisters Carmel, Mary and Joan back home in Drogheda. Sometimes Tom joins me for breakfast. This is also the time when I catch up on world news and read poetry by Pádraig Ó Tuama.
GUESS WHO’S COMING TO BRUNCH?: By 9:20 or so, I’m out the door meeting friends, and by 10:30 I sometimes call Tom to tell him I’m bringing people home for brunch. We’ve been married for 16 years — he’s gotten used to my doing this at the last minute. Tom always makes various pancakes and bacon and eggs. If he’s out of town, I do the cooking, which means we either have porridge and tea or go to Zorbas, the Greek restaurant around the corner.
CHORES: Once our friends leave around 1, Tom and I do chores. Tom does the food shopping, and he bakes the communion bread for Dignity NY’s evening church service. This is the L.G.B.T. Catholic group where we met in 1996. We pitch in to do laundry and house cleaning.
MEET-UPS: In the afternoon, I work on various projects with other organizations and activists. Jesús Lebrón, my friend of over 30 years, frequently comes by to help. The Irish L.G.B.T. group Lavender and Green Alliance is celebrating its 25th anniversary, so I’m doing research for an exhibit. I’m also working with Tom on the statewide campaign to pass the sickle cell bill. Later, I go visit friends who are in the hospital or nursing homes. Sometimes, I go to an Irish traditional music session. Niall O’Leary is a favorite.
WINGING THE NEXT MEAL: During the week, I eat with Tom, but on Sundays he’s with members of Dignity NY. I sometimes join them for dinner or eat with friends.
CATCHING UP: I spend the rest of the evening catching up on emails, texts and social media and watching documentaries. I recently saw one on Albert Cashier, a transgender Irish-American soldier during the Civil War, and “Decade of Fire,” about the burning of the South Bronx in the 1970s. I also respond to requests for screenings of my films on the gay-pioneer priest the Rev. John J. McNeill, or the Rev. Mychal F. Judge, a chaplain with the City Fire Department, who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
READING IN BED: After I feed the cats, I make a cup of ginger tea or hot chocolate. Before I close my eyes, I do a bit of light reading — Malachy McCourt’s “Death Need Not Be Fatal” is oftentimes near at hand. After 20 to 30 minutes, I put the book down and pause for a moment to feel grateful for the day.
Queens St. Pat’s For All parade celebrates 20 years in 2019
By Debbie McGoldrick
The 20th annual St. Pat’s for All Parade takes place on Sunday, March 3, from 43rd Street on Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside to 58th Street and Woodside Avenue, starting at noon.
Over 100 groups are registered and include Irish organizations, pipe bands, puppets, scouts, immigrant and LGBT community groups.
New York officials confirmed to march include New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, State
Senators Mike Gianaris and Jessica Ramos, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and Council Members Danny Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer. Irish Consul General Ciarán Madden will also be marching.
This year’s grand marshals are Fionnula Flanagan, currently starring on Broadway in The Ferryman, and dancer-choreographer Sean Curran.
St. Pat’s for All will highlight 2019 anniversaries. The Irish LGBT group Lavender and Green Alliance celebrate years and St. Pat’s for All celebrates 20 years.
“At the parade, we carry signs of support for fellow immigrants, our neighbors and friends who await immigration reform. St. Pat’s for All brings us together in solidarity and support,” said founder and co-chair Brendan Fay.
“St. Pat’s for All welcomes Irish immigrants and all the immigrant communities in Queens to celebrate our shared history of immigration. We especially remember the children at our border who have been separated from their families and continue to wait for justice and humane treatment,” said co-chair Kathleen Walsh-D’Arcy.
Among those registered to march are Irish organizations, immigrant communities, civic groups and LBGT groups. Irish groups include the Brehon Law Society, the Irish Arts Center, Irish Repertory Theater, Irish American Writers and Artists, Co. Laois, the Shannon Gaels, O'Donnell Academy of Irish Dance and the Niall O’ Leary School of Dance.
Among the bands is the Co. Cork Pipe Band, the Pipers of the FDNY, I.S. 230 Marching Band, the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, the Absurdist Pipe Band, and the Lesbian and Gay Big Apple Corps Marching Band. LGBT groups include the Lavender and Green Alliance, Dignity NY, Queens Pride, Pride For Youth, FDNY FireFLAG/EMS and Out Rockaway.
St. Pat’s For All began in 1999 when the exclusion of the Irish LGBT group Lavender and Green Alliance from other St. Patrick’s parades inspired the multicultural celebration of Irish heritage in Queens.
“Our response was to create a parade to welcome all. For 20 years St Pat’s for All has become known as the Irish parade of warm welcomes,” said Fay.
This year’s St. Pat’s for All Parade in Queens marks 20 years of Irish pride shared by everyone
Queens.com, October 26, 2019
A special anniversary commemoration will mark the St. Pat’s for All Parade — the city’s most inclusive celebration of Ireland — in Sunnyside and Woodside on March 3.
The St. Pat’s For All Parade celebrates its 20th anniversary this coming Sunday, as revelers from around the city and the world parade through Sunnyside and Woodside to celebrate the culture and contributions of the Irish. The parade stands out as welcoming all those who want to enjoy the wearing of the green regardless of race, gender, creed or sexual orientation.
The official parade begins at 2 p.m. on March 3, but the celebration kicks off two days earlier on March 1. The parade will host a special 20th anniversary event which is billed as a reception and concert to benefit the parade. The event will be held at the Irish Arts Center in Manhattan. Tickets are available on the parade’s website.
The march was the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the city to encourage members of the LGBTQ community to participate under a banner. Even as the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Manhattan now permits LGBT organizations to march, the St. Pat’s for All Parade continues this tradition, growing into one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in New York City.
As in previous years, the event will celebrate two big contributors to Irish culture as grand marshals. Both of this year’s honorees come from the arts in Fionnula Flanagan and Seán Curran.
Flanagan is an actress currently starring in “The Ferryman” on Broadway who previously performed in a film that celebrated the women who most influenced famed Irish author James Joyce, in addition to appearances on “Lost,” “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” and various “Star Trek” series. She’s a native of the Irish capital of Dublin.
Curran is a renowned choreographer and director for opera and theater, as well as an award-winning original cast member of “STOMP!” His 30 works for Seán Curran Company are characterized by collaborations across artistic genres. Founded in 1997, the company has toured to nearly 100 venues in the U.S., Europe and Asia and has presented home seasons in New York City as part of the Brooklyn Academy of Music 2015 and 2018 Next Wave Festivals and at The Joyce Theater.
If you’re interested in participating, visit the St. Pat’s for All Parade website for more details.
Fighting Irish: Battle for LGBTQ inclusion in St. Patrick's Day parades continues
While a growing number of St. Patrick's Day parades are permitting LGBTQ groups to march under their own banners, others still exclude these organizations.
NBC News, March 13, 2018
By Julie Compton
A sea of green hats, shamrocks and bagpipes flowed through the streets of Staten Island last week, but the rainbow flag was not among them.
Every year since 2011, the Pride Center of Staten Island has been denied entry into the annual Staten Island St. Patrick’s Parade.
The Pride Center’s new executive director, Carol Bullock, said she attempted to apply for a spot in this year's event, but when she met with parade president Larry Cummings last month, he told her that her organization could not participate.
“To be honest with you, I was shocked and obviously very disappointed,” Bullock told NBC News. What was most surprising to Bullock, who took the helm of the Pride Center in December, was that she wasn’t even allowed to fill out an application.
“At least let me apply, and then if you want to come back and tell me if it’s a ‘yes’ or a ‘no,’ I get it,” she said. “Then I could have some kind of conversation with the individuals who would then make that decision.”
Bullock said the decision “screams discrimination” and sends a “very bad message” to LGBTQ youth.
Cummings did not respond to multiple phone calls and text messages from NBC News. But in an interview with the Irish Central Voice, he explained, “Our parade is for Irish heritage and culture. It is not a political or sexual identification parade.”
Cummings told the Irish-American media outlet that the parade committee voted to ban LGBTQ groups from the event when representatives from the Pride Center first attempted to apply back in 2011.
“The committee voted so that’s that. Those are the rules,” he said. “Gays can march, but not under a banner.”
Bullock said the Pride Center of Staten Island had no intention of promoting “sexual identification.” She said the organization simply wanted to march under a white banner that displayed only its name and logo.
“Just like everyone else who wants to celebrate their Irish ancestry, we do as well,” Bullock said.
Carol Bullock, left, and Brendan Fay. Fay accompanied Bullock as she attempted to fill out an application to participate in the 2018 Staten Island St. Patrick's Parade.Courtesy of Carol Bullock
Brendan Fay, an openly gay Irish immigrant and the founder of LGBTQ Irish advocacy group Lavender and Green Alliance, said Staten Island is not the only place in the U.S. where LGBTQ groups are not permitted to participate in St. Patrick's Day celebrations. However, he said the New York City borough is part of a shrinking list.
"Growing numbers of parades are including LGBT groups, and that's reflecting a changing Ireland," Fay told NBC News, noting that Ireland in 2015 became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote and now has an openly gay prime minister.
Today, LGBTQ groups participate openly in St. Patrick’s Day events across the world, including in Ireland. In Chicago, which reportedly has the second largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the U.S., LGBTQ groups have been allowed to march under their own banner since the 1990s, but in New York City and Boston, which boast the largest and third-largest U.S. parades, respectively, their inclusion came much later.
In 2014, the organizers of Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade voted to allow gay groups to march openly, but then they briefly reinstated a ban in 2017. After fierce backlash from the community, the organizers voted unanimously to lift the ban once again.
A ban against LGBTQ groups marching openly in the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade, located on historic Fifth Avenue in the borough of Manhattan, lasted for 25 years. Fay said he and other gay activists fought for decades to be included in the event. Though they were prohibited from doing so, the activists would enter the parade with their banners and signs anyway, he said. For years, they endured jeering crowds, police arrests, and even had beer cans thrown at them.
Nearly two decades ago, Fay founded the Queens-based St. Pat’s for All parade. The event celebrates “Irish heritage and culture regardless of race, gender, creed or sexual orientation,” according to its website.
“I’ve been part of the protests, the arrests … but once I began St. Pat’s for All, the first one being in 2000, I realized the importance of cultural celebrations being welcoming and inclusive,” Fay explained.
In 2015, Out@NBCUniversal, NBC Universal's LGBTQ employee resource group, became the first and only LGBTQ group permitted to march under it's own banner in the NYC St. Patrick's Day Parade. While the inclusion of a group belonging to NBC — the parade's official broadcaster (and NBC News' parent company) — stirred controversy, Out@NBCUniversal's participation paved the way for other LGBTQ groups to be included in following years.
Members of the first openly gay group, OUT@NBCUniversal, make their way up Fifth Avenue during New York City's St. Patrick's Day Parade on March 17, 2015 in New York City.Spencer Platt / Getty Images
In 2016, NYC parade organizers voted to allow the Lavender and Green Alliance to march under its own banner. The organizers had come under pressure from Mayor Bill de Blasio, who had boycottedthe parade since taking office in 2014, and from beer brewers Heineken, Sam Adams and Guinness, which pulled their sponsorships over the ban, according to the Washington Post. In March of that year, 300 members of the Lavender and Green Alliance finally participated in the 254-year-old parade. There “were many tears of joy,” Fay recalled.
Fay said he is hopeful the organizers of the Staten Island St. Patrick’s Parade will eventually follow the lead of other St. Patrick's celebrations around the world and allow LGBTQ groups to march openly under their own banners.
“I believe the day will come, just like it did on Fifth Avenue after over a quarter of a century of determination and hope,” Fay said.
While the Staten Island St. Patrick’s Parade was officially off limits to LGBTQ groups, some activists found a way to unofficially participate in the March 4 festivities. For the second year in a row, the Young Democrats of Richmond County applied to participate in the Forest Avenue Mile, a Staten Island footrace that occurs on the same day and in the same neighborhood as the borough’s St. Patrick’s celebration.
K.C. Hankins, vice president of the Young Democrats of Richmond County, said the group called itself the “Rainbow Run.” Each runner, he noted, wore a color from the rainbow, and some of them included the Pride Center’s logo on their T-shirts. He said many of the parade-goers cheered them on, and one group even greeted them with “a big rainbow balloon banner.”
Hankins, 25, called the Pride Center of Staten Island a “cornerstone” of the community, noting it provides health care services and other support to LGBTQ Staten Islanders.
“It is a travesty that they cannot march under their banner openly the way that all of these other organizations can,” Hankins said. However, he said seeing people cheering on the Rainbow Run from the sidelines brightened his spirit.
“Not a single person was negative to us,” he recalled. “It was all love on the parade route, and it just shows that people are ready for us to be able to march in the parade openly as queer Irish Staten Islanders.”
While some Staten Islanders, like Hankins, unofficially participated in the Staten Island St. Patrick’s Parade, others, like Bullock, officially celebrated their Irish heritage that same day at the Lavender and Green Alliance’s St. Pat’s for All event in Queens.
“It was awesome,” Bullock said. “We were invited, we were welcomed, we had a great time, and we were able to celebrate just like
But make no mistake, Bullock noted, the Pride Center will continue to apply for entry into the Staten Island St. Patrick’s Parade.
"We'll continue to work for the day that we can celebrate our Irish culture and heritage on Staten Island," she said.
St. Pat's for All!
Wester Gazette, March 07, 2018
By Thomas Hogan
March 3 was cold but not rainy, a good day for the 19th St. Pat’s for All parade in Sunnyside and Woodside.
Though heavily overcast at the start of the march, there was no threat of precipitation, and before it was over the sun was out. The familiar faces of elected officials were seen and a few new faces appeared too. The FDNY started the parade making its way up Skillman Avenue. After some alterations over the years, the parade route seems fixed now, launching at 43rd Street and proceeding up Skillman to 56th Street, with a short march to Woodside Avenue, where after two blocks it came to an end.
March 3 was cold but not rainy, a good day for the 19th St. Pat’s for All parade in Sunnyside and Woodside.
Before the march was the oratory, beginning with a surprise opener, US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand who was followed by Council Member Danny Dromm, Congress Member Joseph Crowley and Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer.
City Council Speaker Cory Johnson announced himself as half Irish, half Korean and all gay and could be heard far down 43rd Street.
The Grand Marshals of the parade were announced: Dan Barry of The New York Times and Kathleen Sullivan, who promotes nuclear disarmament for the United Nations. The city’s Public Advocate Letitia James, said, “Today my name is Letitia Jameson.”
NYS Senator Michael Gianaris and Council Member Barry Grodenchik were also present.
City Comptroller Scott Stringer announced, “Let the parade begin!”
Brendan Fay, who created the parade that has run each year since 2000, again honored the Choctaws who befriended those refugees of the blight in Ireland when they arrived in America in the mid- 19th century, then remembered some of the veteran St. Pat’s marchers who have marched their last, having passed way.
The ending of the parade, at a 108th Precinct police barrier at Woodside and 58th Street, is a celebratory situation as all the musical groups come in and give their music a rousing wind-up. Brian Fleming and the St. Pat’s for All Stars rode the sound truck, but all the others marched, including the County Cork Fife & Drum Corps, and the Lesbian & Gay Big Apple Corps Marching Band. A line of young, evidently Mexican musicians arrived, playing Mexican music and singing in Spanish. The spectators, rightly all-inclusive, gave them loud applause.
Then there’s the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, with more members than it used to have. The players got to the end of the march and their playing, then answered a request to repeat one of their numbers, an anarchistic thing that includes the chant, “Stop the deportations; no borders, no nations,” which had Brendan Fay cheering enthusiastically.
The original reason for the St. Pat’s Parade, a protest against the refusal by the St. Patrick’s Day Parade’s elders to allow a gay group to participate in the gigantic March 17 parade, seems to have faded and the small march in Sunnyside and Woodside on the first Sunday every March is its own excuse for being. Next year’s parade will be the 20th Anniversary and for that reason may be more festive than ever.
St. Pat’s For All Bigger, Stronger than Ever
Gay City News, April 01, 2017
By Kathleen Warnock
Some asked Brendan Fay and Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy, the co-chairs of the inclusive St. Pat’s for All Parade in Queens whether they’d stop marching in Sunnyside after last year’s decision to let an openly LGBT Irish group march in the Fifth Avenue St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Their answer was a resounding “no!” and the 18th annual parade stepped off from Skillman Avenue on March 4, with the largest number of participants in its history and an unofficial theme of “resist.”
This year’s grand marshals were iconic TV talk show host Phil Donahue and disability activist Anastasia Somoza.
A year after LGBTQ Irish group joins Fifth Avenue parade, Queens celebration of diversity timelier still “St. Pats for All 2017 is cultural space for hope and hospitality in a time of stress and fear and prejudice,” said Fay, who started the parade in 1999. “Early in the morning I went from checking the delivery of the portable toilets and stage setup to singing ballads with Malachy McCourt, Edie Windsor, and Phil Donahue.”
The parade climaxed a weekend of celebrating Irish and Irish-American heritage. Many attendees were also at the previous Friday night’s annual fundraising concert at the Irish Arts Center in Manhattan.
Brisk weather on Sunday kept the proceedings moving.
Before the parade, as speakers and officials gathered at Claret Wine Bar (where Donahue and Windsor joined McCourt for a rousing rendition of “Danny Boy”), out gay Jackson Heights City Councilmember Daniel Dromm reminisced about his longtime association with the parade and with the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization, or ILGO, which in 1990 launched the effort to open up Manhattan’s parade to LGBTQ participation.
“I love being at this parade,” Dromm said. “Last year, we took a trip to Ireland and met with members of the Irish community, and I see this parade as being an intersection of all these cultural and progressive movements here and in Ireland that have made great changes and educated people. With the president we have, I don’t think he understands that.”
Dromm was accompanied by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, a long-time regular at the parade even before she was in public office, who remarked, “It’s a great symbol of inclusion: something wonderful that came out of being excluded. And a great reminder for the climate we find ourselves in now.”
The subtext – and text – of much of the parade reflected a protest against anti-immigrant discrimination in a borough where some 40 percent of the inhabitants were born in another country as well as an outcry against the rise of hate crimes and hate speech.
“I think that the lesbian and gay leadership represent what are fundamental values of identity, inclusion, and equality that must be practiced everywhere, all the time,” said Barbara Jones, consul general of Ireland in the United States. Jones brokered the agreement last year between the Lavender & Green Alliance and the Fifth Avenue parade, which allowed the LGBTQ group and its allies to march in Manhattan.
“I believe that St. Pat’s for All values these important qualities,” she continued. “Regardless of the political climate, there’s the soul of society we must think of.”
Somoza, who in the first St. Pat’s for All Parade – pushed in her wheelchair by Hillary Clinton, who volunteered for the job when Somoza’s motorized wheelchair was broken – said that in her years with the parade, “I’ve noticed how much more support and involvement we’re getting from the grassroots up. That’s the best kind of change. This parade was an important step. If it weren’t for St. Pat’s for All, we might not have been able to march on Fifth Avenue.
Somoza, the daughter of Irish and Nicaraguan immigrants and a native New Yorker who spoke eloquently on the rights of disabled people at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, said that she sees a “larger resistance movement that’s now forming and pushing back. And that’s part of the message we are sending today.”
Donahue said he was initially contacted to join the parade by a fellow member of the Notre Dame/ St. Mary’s Alumni/ae Association, which also marched in the parade.
Donahue, who hosted one of the first television shows to welcome openly lesbian and gay guests starting in the early 1970s, said that his Church still has “a lot to atone for. It promotes homophobia and makes it easier for homophobes to beat ‘em up. Homophobia can be lethal, and the concept of ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’ is condescending.”
Forty percent of Queens residents are foreign-born, making the borough a natural venue for this inclusive parade.
He added, “I’m encouraged by [Pope] Francis saying, ‘Who am I to judge?’ It took a lot of moral courage to do that, but it also took long enough to get there.”
Fay welcomed many friends of the parade to say a few words. In addition to Dromm, Mark-Viverito, and Jones, pre-parade speakers included out gay Council Majority Leader Jimmy van Bramer, who represents Sunnyside and Long Island City. Other councilmembers on hand to march included Chelsea’s out gay Corey Johnson and Sunset Park’s out gay Carlos Menchaca, Astoria’s Costas Constantinides, and Eastern Queens’ Rory Lancman.
Other elected officials who spoke included Public Advocate Letitia James, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, New York State Controller Thomas Di Napoli, and Astoria State Senator Michael Gianaris. The de Blasio administration’s LGBT and Queens liaisons, Matthew McMorrow and Nick Gulotta, respectively, spoke on the mayor’s behalf.
New York City Controller Scott Stringer got the crowd cheering when he talked about using the New York City pension funds’ $170 billion in assets to pressure states that discriminate against LGBTQ people to change the way they treat their citizens or risk losing New York’s business. He drew a roar when he spoke sharply about “this lunatic in the White House!”
The crowd heard more strong speeches from Amir Ashour, executive director of IraQueer, who spoke movingly about growing up gay in Iraq, Edie Windsor, who battled the Defense of Marriage Act to its demise at the Supreme Court, former State Senator Thomas Duane, Shekar Krishnan, a South Asian activist who leads the New Visions Democratic Club of Jackson Heights, and Augusto Cabrera, Peru’s deputy consul general in the US.
With Gilbert Baker, designer of the Rainbow Flag, carrying the Irish tri-color, the FDNY Emerald Society Pipes and Drum Band stepped off to begin the parade fairly close to its scheduled 2 p.m. start. They were greeted by crowds lining the sidewalks, many with babes in arms, many more with small dogs, often in costume, in arms.
As “Saturday Night Live”’s Stefon might have said, this parade has everything! Stiltwalkers, Gaelic sports teams, dogs in costumes, an LGBTQ marching band, a mariachi band, carriage horses, fire trucks, CrossFit practitioners, and a guy selling soft pretzels from a shopping cart.
Groups large and small paraded through Sunnyside and Woodside, from Ireland (County Laois), from adjacent neighborhoods, from surrounding boroughs and states. Windsor and her spouse, Judith Kasen, carried the banner for the Lesbian & Gay Big Apple Corps, whose musicians were resplendent in sharp uniforms with purple feathers in their hats.
Musician and playwright Brian Fleming, who comes to Queens from Ireland each year to coordinate the concert as well as the music in the parade, led the “St Pat’s for All Stars,” made up of Jerry Arias, Louise Barry, Dave Barckow, and Alice Smyth, as they rode on a flatbed truck.
At the parade’s conclusion, crowds lingered, particularly around the bands, and dozens joined in songs from the mariachi band from East Elmhurst’s Academia De Mariachi Nuevo Amanecer, then moved on to applaud crowd favorite the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, and perhaps followed the County Cork Pipe Band playing all the way into Donovan’s Pub.
The parade has always had its anti-gay protesters, and 2017 was no exception. One protester was flanked by a man holding up an even larger sign that read “DON’T READ THESE SIGNS!” And in a second-floor apartment near Roosevelt Avenue, where someone always posts a series of anti-gay posters in the window, there was a new one this year in the apartment next door: “LOVE IS LOVE.”
“That was diverse with a capital D,” co-chair Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy said of St. Pat’s for All. “And the largest parade we’ve ever had. My parents came over here on a boat in the ‘20s, and we’ve welcomed immigrants here ever since. If we stand together, if we get our strength from each other, then we don’t have anything to fear.”
Irish St. Pat’s for All Homecoming for Brendan Fay
IrishCentral, March 17, 2017
By Debbie McGoldrick
Brendan Fay, founder of the Lavender and Green Alliance and co-founder of the annual St. Pat’s for All parade in Queens, spent years and years protesting his exclusion from the New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade, starting back in the days when the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization (ILGO) existed. He was even arrested while doing so, but always stood firm in his belief that an Irish gay group, with its own banner, should have a place alongside other groups representing Irish America on its biggest day.
But that was then and this is now. Fay, who resides in Queens with his husband Tom Moulton, finally won his place on the Fifth Avenue line of march in 2016 for the first time with Lavender and Green, which will also take part in Friday’s parade “this year and every year,” Fay says.
But one person will be missing from holding the group’s banner this year – Fay himself. The native of Co. Louth has a good reason: he headed home on Monday night to prepare to lead his hometown parade in Drogheda as grand marshal on St. Patrick’s Day.
Could Fay have ever foreseen the day, back when he was protesting, that he’d become so much a part of the mainstream? “I had always hoped that one day things would be different for us,” he told the Irish Voice on Monday from JFK Airport, having switched flights to make it back to Ireland before Tuesday’s snowstorm.
Missing his first St. Patrick’s Day in New York will feel different for Fay, but the chance to lead the march in Drogheda supported by all of his family members who still reside there was an opportunity not to be passed up.
“There has been a sea change in the New York parade,” Fay says. “And I have come to really appreciate the significance of the parade. I was very proud to march with Lavender and Green with all of our supporters. It sent a message that there’s a new Ireland, a new Irish America, and I’m thankful. Lavender and Green is looking forward to everyone turning out to march this year too.”
Fay will spend his week in Ireland speaking to youth groups in Louth and Dublin and doing research work on an upcoming film that he’s making. One of his engagements will be with Senator David Norris, Ireland’s best-known gay rights activist.
“It’s going to be very emotionally moving for me to be back in the town where I was raised, leading the St. Patrick’s Day parade,” said Fay. “And I’ll be thinking of all our friends in New York who helped make the day possible, like Stanley and Kathleen Rygor, and Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy, Danny Dromm and Tarlach Mac Niallais and so many more.”
In a press release, Fay further stated that leading the Drogheda parade “is a huge recognition of the movement to make our Irish parades and celebrations more welcoming” and a “historical acknowledgment of the hopes and efforts by LGBT immigrants seeking our place in the New York Irish diaspora.
“At the heart of Lavender and Green Alliance and St. Pats for All is a movement to create cultural spaces welcoming and hospitable to our Irish LGBT stories and lives,” said Fay. “St. Patrick’s Parades can be warm and vital expressions of community life where the cultural heart bursts open onto the streets in every Irish town.”
Fay will be accompanied in Drogheda by Moulton and his Irish-based family, including siblings Peter, Mary, Carmel, Bernadette, and Joan Lorraine.
The long march for inclusion in NYC St Patrick's parade
Independent.ie, March 12 2017
A row that has rumbled on for decades seems to have finally reached a conclusion. Siobhán Brett reports from New York as gay groups prepare to take part - for only the second time - in the Big Apple's St Patrick's Day parade
On a warm day in September 2015, I stopped to buy water at a subway news-stand and was struck by the front-page headline of the Irish Echo, a Manhattan-based weekly newspaper, which read: "Parade peace appeal".
At the heart of the report was a letter written by Hilary Beirne, the executive secretary of the New York St Patrick's Day Parade. Beirne's plea was long-winded and unspecific, referring to years-old "by-laws of the Parade Corporation", a legal dispute and bitter infighting between organising committee members.
The protracted row pertained to positions on a vote, taken later that month, in which a majority of parade organisers would elect to allow gay and lesbian groups to take part for the first time. The mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, ended his boycott of the parade on foot of the decision.
De Blasio, sporting a self-satisfied grin and a purple-and-green sateen sash, walked in last year's parade alongside the Lavender & Green Alliance, a New York City-based organisation of Irish lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Lavender & Green was founded in 1994 by Brendan Fay, a 58-year-old filmmaker and lifelong activist from Drogheda, who said that last year's breakthrough followed a 25-year battle.
"And here we are, preparing to go up Fifth for a second time," he told me earlier this week. "There was a profound, profound shift in 2016. It's now about sustaining that."
Labour Party senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin joined Fay and De Blasio in carrying the banner for the Irish LGBTQ community in the US last year. Next Friday, Ó Ríordáin will be back in the city with another objective, one tied to different kind of profound shift: the election of Donald Trump as US president.
Ó Ríordáin and a group of Irish campaigners, writers and artists are to gather on the evening of the parade at Riverside Church at 120th Street in Manhattan to protest against Trump's anti-immigrant politics, and to "remind this new administration, many of whom are Irish-American descendants of immigrants themselves, that the international community rejects the politics of division and fear".
"By working together," the invitation to the rally continues, "we can lead by example and make a difference in America and across the world." Ticket proceeds will go to the American Civil Liberties Union.
By the fact of it being a massive celebration of millions of immigrants, The New York City St Patrick's Day Parade generally eschews all 'politics' and 'causes', other than the bright green, catch-all motif of Irishness. Its first-ever concession in tone and messaging was made to LGBTQ marchers, and just last year.
On March 1, White House press secretary Sean Spicer - a man of Irish descent who annually dons a pair of shamrock-patterned trousers, one leg white, one leg green - announced on Twitter that Trump had declared it "Irish-American Heritage Month".
Since, little to nothing has been said of the designation. When Spicer raised upcoming diplomatic meetings earlier this week, he even neglected to mention the March 17 meeting with Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
The Trump administration's "revised" executive order on immigration, restricting freedom of movement for people from predominantly Muslim countries, is to come into effect on the eve of the parade. With immigrants' fundamental rights and liberties under threat, the Bronx-based Emerald Isle Immigration Center has been given permission say a few words during NBC's four-hour live broadcast of the parade.
Traditionally, however, the parade has been hewed closely to a set of narrow parameters, rarely veering off course or allowing experimentation or imagination in response to current affairs.
It did briefly in 1991, when Brendan Fay and other gay rights activists marched unidentified beside the then-mayor, David Dinkins, who had brokered a one-off arrangement with the parade. The mayor and those with him were booed, taunted and the target for beer cans thrown by spectators.
"We as LGBTQ appreciate the significance of parades more than most," Fay says. "A parade or a march is often the setting where we have first felt there are others like us. I never thought my life would be absorbed by parades, organising them, appreciating them," says Fay.
"Our parades can become spaces of welcome and hospitality and reflect an Irishness rooted in the memory of our own scattering across the world as refugees and immigrants longing for home," he adds.
He believes strongly in "an Irishness that is generous and celebrates diversity as gift... transforming the anguish of the past into a compassionate advocacy for human rights across the globe".
The last of the acrimony was working its way out of the New York St Patrick's Day Parade and Celebration Committee as recently as last May. Choice adjectives were reportedly traded at the meeting in question: "back-stabbing" was among the charges levelled. The 2016 parade was branded an "atrocity", "disgrace", and "logistical nightmare".
"We do not want a Halloween party on Fifth Avenue," one worked-up man is reported to have said. "We celebrate our Catholicism." Another said that the parade was being infiltrated by secularism. The imagined upset of one board member's late father was invoked by another.
In this hail of criticisms and insults, the former chairman, John Dunleavy, stepped back. According to his successor, John Lahey, the meetings since have been comparatively peaceable affairs.
Lahey, who is president of Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, says that for "about a dozen years" he had come down on the side of gay rights groups' participation in the parade. But the conviction held by himself and others was not enough.
"The Irish in Ireland were further ahead than the Irish-American community," Lahey says of the entrenched resistance to change.
The earliest St Patrick's Day parades in New York City were held last weekend, among them a parade Fay co-chairs, St Pat's For All. Taking place in Sunnyside, Queens, it is a lively, multicultural parade, the composition of which would likely make some hail-glorious-Saint-Patrick traditionalists flinch.
Fay extends the invitation to all races, minority groups, and faiths. Actively extending the celebration to Muslim friends, he says, is in keeping with "a sense of Irishness based on our own story and our connections with other people".
"This is very, very important as we rally together in the era of Trump," he adds.
While Fay's vision (realised for the 18th consecutive year last weekend in Queens) is one of "not simply an inclusive Irish parade, but of it communities and individuals finding each other and sharing a heartfelt commitment that another world is possible, of welcome, and equality, and a spirit of activism", Lahey's view of the parade he chairs is simpler.
"From my point of view, the parade should be a celebration of Saint Patrick, and of the Irish in New York City. I don't think we've been able to convey that message for 25 years because of the controversy," he says. Lahey was bothered by the portrayal by the press of those opposed to the inclusion of gay groups, which he deemed unfair. "People who weren't supportive weren't bigots, they weren't homophobes," he says. "This is ultimately a private parade, and it has the right to decide the [participant] groups and the message."
The parade's message is better off without political statements of any kind, Lahey says (although "England get out of Ireland" is an outlier that has been permissible in recent years).
He says his only remote concern is the available physical space in the vicinity of Trump Tower, a part of Fifth Avenue that continues to be clad with security barricades and police prefabs.
In 2015, Hilary Beirne concluded his "peace appeal" by dramatically appealing directly to St Patrick himself.
"It is vital we protect and preserve this parade that our forefathers built over the last 253 years. Our mission is a sacred trust that we hold but for a short period of time. May St Patrick guide us through this together."
Fay has continued to take guidance from numerous and diverse sources. Above all, he says, familiarity with the experience of exile and exclusion compels him to "reach out in friendship and solidarity with Muslim and immigrant friends and neighbours".
At a state dinner last December, Fay was awarded for service to the Irish abroad by President Michael D Higgins.
In his speech, Higgins borrowed a phrase about a "fundamental truth" from a speech originally made in Vietnam, one he has used a couple of times since, which Fay was particularly struck by: "We are all migrants in time and space."
Irish presidential award for gay activists who changed St. Patrick's Day parade
Irish Central, September 22, 2016
By Debbie McGoldrick
Brendan Fay and Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy, the leaders of the Lavender and Green Alliance and the all-inclusive St. Pat’s for All parade in Queens, have another reason to celebrate 2016: both activists who led the charge to ensure LGBT inclusion in the New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade were named by the Irish government last week as recipients of the Presidential Distinguished Service Awards for the Irish Abroad.
The year started on a high thanks to the decision by parade leaders to allow Lavender and Green to march this year for the first time, and now Fay and Walsh D’Arcy are planning a trip to Ireland for the awards ceremony in December hosted by President Michael D. Higgins at Aras an Uachtarain, the presidential residence.
Walsh D’Arcy, upon receiving word from the Irish government about the honor, thought first of her parents. “They emigrated from Offaly and Tipperary, reluctantly, in the 1920s and found a community of Irish people in New York that worked to preserve Irish music, culture, politics – a community of people who took care of each other!” the long-time community activist told our sister publicatin the Irish Voice.
The LGBT group Lavender and Green march in the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade 2016...making history.
“Almost a century later, I am still part of that community. President Higgins' award for the Irish abroad is a great honor. I am so proud to be part of St. Pat's For Alland to stand with Brendan Fay, our dedicated committee members, and all of the Irish Americans and organizations that have embraced our parade and our mission to cherish all of the children of the nation equally.”
Walsh D’Arcy has been co-chair of the St. Pat’s for All parade since 2006, and is a board member of the Lavender and Green Alliance.
A community organizer, feminist and human rights activist, she has been active in the New York Irish community all of her life, and lived in Ireland for several years. Her late husband, Philip D'Arcy, was born in Killusty, Co. Tipperary. Her daughter, Maeve D'Arcy, is an artist who has lived and studied in Ireland, and her work was exhibited in the Irish Arts Center in 2015.
With St. Pat's for All and Fay's Lavender and Green Alliance, she worked to foster inclusion and equality in New York's St. Patrick's Day Parade and marched up Fifth Avenue for the first time this year behind the Lavender and Green banner.
Fay said that the award “is a huge recognition of the movement to make our St. Patrick’s parades and celebrations more welcoming. The award is an acknowledgment of the efforts of LGBT immigrants finding our place in the New York Irish diaspora, and honors the Irish community who supported and advocated for inclusion in the face of prejudice.”
Fay, a native of Drogheda, Co. Louth, is co-founder of the Lavender and Green Alliance and in 1999 founded the St. Pat’s for All parade which takes place on the first Sunday of March in Sunnyside-Woodside, welcoming all participants.
Lavender and Green celebrate the Yes vote on marriage equality in Ireland.
The Irish government announced a number of award recipients from around the world last week. Now in their fifth year, the awards will also honor two more U.S.-based recipients – businessman and philanthropist Norman McClelland based in Phoenix, and Professor Garret FitzGerald, a renowned physician scientist at the University of Pennsylvania.
McClelland, who was cited by the Irish government for his charitable work, is a philanthropist whose “endeavors have spanned the creation of one of the largest urban parks in the world; through sustained support for the St. Mary’s food bank, to whom he gives 80,000 pounds of food per month; and donating the college of management to Arizona State University; to the building of the Phoenix Irish Center, Library and Genealogical Center,” according to a press release.
FitzGerald’s work “has contributed substantially to the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease by low dose aspirin and has benefitted millions worldwide. He has also won several major international awards for his work on nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and is widely published in leading medical journals.” He will be recognized by the government for his contributions to science, technology and innovation.
Four in U.S. win Irish presidential awards
Irish Echo, September 21, 2016
By Irish Echo Staff
The 2016 Presidential Distinguished Service Awards for the Irish Abroad list includes six new world winners, four of them in the U.S. and one each in Canada and one in Colombia.
Gay rights activists Brendan Fay and Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy are the best known U.S. names on the list which was by Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charles Flanagan.
The Presidential Distinguished Service Award was established by the government following the 2011 Global Irish Economic Forum as a means to recognize the contribution of members of the Irish diaspora.
The first awards were made in 2012.
Nominations are made by Irish communities abroad through Ireland’s network of diplomatic missions.
Announcing the recipients of the 2016 Awards, Minister Flanagan said: “I am delighted that once again we have the opportunity to recognize some of the finest members of our diaspora for their contribution to Ireland, the Irish community abroad and Ireland’s reputation.
“In the ever changing world we live in, this remarkable group of individuals have been a constant beacon for Ireland and the values we hold dear.
“This year, for the first time Awards will be presented in the category of Science, Technology and Innovation, reflecting both the important place of this sector in our dynamic economy and Ireland’s track record of achievement in this area.
“Receiving an Award in this category is Garret FitzGerald who, in his role as a globally recognized research physician and scientist, has continued to be an active member of our diaspora and is closely engaged in facilitating scientific endeavor in Ireland.”
Minister for Diaspora Affairs and International Development, Joe McHugh T.D, added: “This year’s Presidential Distinguished Service Award recipients signify the breadth and richness of our diaspora. They include those working with the most marginalized and vulnerable, those who have become the voice for those who have none.
“Through their work as community activists for many years in New York, Brendan Fay and Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy have secured rights and recognition for LGBT members of the Irish community.
“And, in the very challenging environment of Sierra Leone, Sr. Mary Sweeney has worked tirelessly for local communities and most recently she has played a significant role in coordinating a response to the Ebola epidemic.”
The full list of awards winners is: Arts, Culture and Sport: Angela Brady (UK); Terry Wogan (Deceased – UK) – presented posthumously.
Business and Education: Robert Kearns (Canada); Gerald Lawless (UAE)
Charitable Works: Norman McClelland (US)
Irish Community Support: Nora Higgins (UK); Brendan Fay (US): Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy (US)
Peace, Reconciliation and Development: Martin Von Hildebrand (Colombia); Sr. Mary Sweeney (Sierra Leone).
Science, Technology and Innovation: Garret FitzGerald (US)
The release announcing the award recipients includes brief biographies of the recipients and in the case of the U.S. and Canadian winners they state: Brendan Fay (US) “Brendan Fay, a community activist, theologian, filmmaker and public speaker, is Co-Founder of the LGBT group, Lavender and Green Alliance. He was also a founding member of the Irish AIDS Outreach organisation in 1996 which sought to break the silence around AIDS in the Irish community in New York. He has been active on immigration reform (UAFA), civil marriage, AIDS awareness and human rights.
“Brendan has been an activist for LGBT rights, and in particular Irish LGBT rights, in New York for several decades, forming the inclusive St. Pat’s For All Parade in 1999 as an alternative to the 5th Avenue Parade. Along with Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy, he worked for years to secure the right of Irish gay groups to march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in NYC, a right which was finally won in 2016.”
Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy (US) “Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy is Co-Founder of the LGBT group, Lavender and Green Alliance. She is a writer, social worker, community activist and formed the inclusive St. Pat’s For All Parade in 1999 as an alternative to the 5th Avenue Parade. Along with Brendan Fay, she worked for years to secure the right of Irish gay groups to march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in NYC, a right which was finally won in 2016.”
Garret FitzGerald (US): “UCD graduate, Professor FitzGerald is a globally recognized research physician scientist at the University of Pennsylvania. His research has contributed substantially to the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease by low dose aspirin and has benefitted millions worldwide. He has also won several major international awards for his work on nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and is widely published in leading medical journals.
“He is closely engaged in facilitating scientific endeavor in Ireland, establishing a successful Center for Cardiovascular Science at UCD and was a founding advisor of Science Foundation Ireland. He has contributed significantly to the training and mentoring of many Irish researchers, several of whom hold senior positions within Irish academia and industry today. Amongst the more than 100 postdoctoral and doctoral students who have trained in his lab, more than 20 are Irish and remain active in research.
“In 2014, Science Foundation Ireland awarded Professor FitzGerald with the inaugural SFI St. Patrick’s Day Science Medal in recognition of his outstanding contributions to his field of expertise and to his ongoing support of the research community in Ireland.”
Norman McClelland (US) “The son of Irish emigrants, Norman McClelland, is a businessman and philanthropist based in Phoenix, Arizona. His philanthropic endeavors have spanned the creation of one of the largest urban parks in the world; through sustained support for the St. Mary’s food bank, to whom he gives 80,000 pounds of food per month; and donating the college of management to Arizona State University; to the building of the Phoenix Irish Centre, Library and Genealogical Centre.
“A member of the Global Irish Network, Mr. McClelland is proud of his Scots Irish heritage, with roots in Newry, and works hard to support an open and accepting Irish identity, inclusive of all the traditions of the island.”
Robert Kearns (Canada): “Robert Kearns is a key figure within the Irish community in Toronto and has been instrumental in creating the Ireland Park Famine Memorial Park along the quayside in Canada’s largest city. He is now engaged in creation of a new memorial in Toronto, Grasset Park, to commemorate the Canadian medical staff who died administering to the Famine Irish.
“Mr. Kearns is a successful business man and member of the Global Irish Network. He has assisted a number of Irish firms enter the Canadian market, including providing free office space for one such company. He chaired the Ireland Fund of Canada for six years and helped raise funds for integrated education in Ireland.”
The awards will be presented to the award winners by President Michael D. Higgins before the end of this year.
New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade formally welcomes Irish LGBT marchers
IrishCentral, February 25, 2016
By Cahir O'Doherty
In a standing room only gathering at the Irish Consulate last Wednesday that the official New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade website described as “joyous,” parade board member Frank McGreal gave a warm welcome to the Irish gay group Lavender and Green Alliance, which will take its place in the march up Fifth Avenue for the first time this year.
The Irish LGBT organization, co-founded by Irish community activist Brendan Fay in 1994, was excluded from one of the world’s most famous marches for 25 years, and last Wednesday’s gathering in honor of Lavender and Green and officially supported by the New York City march would have been unfathomable 12 months ago. A change in the parade board’s leadership last June – the board is now led by Dr. John Lahey, president of Quinnipiac University – has ushered in a new era of inclusiveness and cooperation.
Members of the Fifth Avenue parade board attended the event hosted by Consul General Barbara Jones in honor of Lavender and Green and its annual St. Pat’s for All parade in Queens. McGreal offered a warm welcome to Fay and Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy, the co-chairs of Lavender and Green, and to all the group’s members.
Fay told the Irish Voice that he expects at least 300 participants to march with the Lavender and GreenAlliance on Fifth Avenue, a contingent that will include LGBT members and the Irish community leaders who have been their longtime supporters and advocates.
“It will be a historic moment and people are contacting us from around the country and even from Ireland who want to fly in and participate on the day,” Fay said.
“From March 1 on the Lavender and Green website you will be able to contact us to request to participate. We want to reach out to everyone who has been part of this movement and effort over the past 25 years.”
Lavender and Green is not planning on printing a free pass for each person who expresses an interest in marching, however. The emphasis will be placed on inviting those who have participated in their organization and efforts over the decades.
Among the well known names confirmed to march with the group on Fifth Avenue will be former grand marshals of the St. Pat’s for All parade in Sunnyside-Woodside such as Peter Quinn and Malachy McCourt. A number of New York City Council members will also stand behind the Lavender and Green banner, and, as the Irish Voice recently reported, so will New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Meanwhile, the grand marshals for the 2016 Sunnyside-Woodside parade in Queens on Sunday, March 6 are philanthropist Loretta Brennan Glucksman and best-selling Irish author Colum McCann, who both spoke at last Wednesday’s consulate event.
Brennan Glucksman reminded the gathering of just how meaningful to Irish American families and to herself personally the lifting of the ban on Irish gay marching groups on Fifth Avenue is, adding that those celebrating will include her own son and his husband.
McCann added that the ban had hurt not just gay people but their friends and family, and in that sense its lifting should be celebrated by all the Irish.
“From the podium, I looked out at the crowd of supporters old and new, and saw the entire New York Irish community represented and all of them cheering. It was a night I will never forget,” D’Arcy told the Irish Voice.
“This year the parade marks the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising,” McGreal said in his remarks. “In 1916, a small group of Irish men and women dared to act on their deep desire for freedom. Their vision and sacrifices created an Irish Republic that cherishes, all the children of the nation equally. We stand on their shoulders whenever Irish men and women gather to honor St. Patrick and to celebrate our shared Irish culture,” McGreal said.
He concluded his remarks by saying, “To Brendan Fay and the Lavender and Green Alliance, I say, Cead Mile Failte, one-hundred thousand welcomes.”
Read more: Timeline of the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade’s LGBT controversy
The evening was a reminder that Fay's long journey toward full citizenship has been Ireland's and Irish America's too. When he immigrated to America in the 1980s it was still illegal to be gay in Ireland thanks to a Victorian era law imposed by the British and retained by the new Republic.
But in the late 1980s something was already changing. America was teaching Fay, now 57, that he belonged to a distinctive and powerful community and culture, the Irish. At the same time the city's influential gay community was showing the then closeted school teacher the same inspiring lesson.
It was only when Fay and others wanted to combine and celebrate those twin identities on March 17, 1990 on Fifth Avenue that the Irish community said no, you will have to choose. You can be Irish or you could be gay, but you cannot march as both.
For Fay, a longtime Irish community activist, and for other members of the then Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization (ILGO), it was as if they were being asked to participate and stay home simultaneously.
Fay did not know it at the time but that crafty Catch 22 would play itself out over 25 years.
These days, Fay, D’Arcy and their vast array of supporters couldn’t be prouder to be both Irish and gay on March 17.
“We have crossed this extraordinary threshold and people are feeling it,” Fay said. “The Irish community is feeling it. There's no going back.”
Parade Traditions Meld Under Consular Roof
Echo News, February 24, 2016
By Ray O'Hanlon
It would have been unthinkable just a couple of years ago.
Members of the Queens-based St. Pat's or All Parade were joined by members of the Manhattan New York St. Patrick's Day Parade at a reception for the former group's two grand marshals, who will lead the Sunnyside march on Sunday, March 6.
All in the room welcomed and applauded grand marshals Loretta Brennan Glucksman and Colum McCann and vowed to mark the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising in the St. Pat's for All event.
That parade gathers at 43rd St. on Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside.
New York Mayor Bill deBalsio will march in it along with Congressman Joseph Crowley, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and Council Members Danny Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer.
The consulate gathering, according to a St. Pat's for All release, was “a history making night for the Irish community as leaders of the NYCSt. Patrick's Day parade publicly announced the inclusion of Irish LGBT group Lavender and Green Alliance who will march up Fifth Avenue for the first time.
“Board representatives, Frank McGreal, welcomed the Lavender and Green Alliance, saying, 'Céad míle fáilte, one-hundred thousand welcomes.'”
St. Pat's for All Co-chair, Kathleen Walsh D'Arcy, said afterwards of the gathering, hosted by Irish Consul General Barbara Jones: “From the podium, I looked out at the crowd of supporters, old and new, and saw the entire New York Irish community represented, and all of them cheering. It was a night I will never forget.”
Parade chairman and Lavender and Green Alliance founder, Brendan Fay, said: “Hands were extended with words of welcome, bridging a community divide. After twenty five years LGBT Irish will be where we belong on March 17, all together with our Irish community on Fifth Ave. I am proud of the role of St. Pat's for All in bringing us to this historic threshold.”
Marching groups can still register for St. Pat's for All at
Irish Consulate Honors St. Pat’s for All
February 18, 2016
By NYC St. Patrick's Day Parade
The New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade gave a warm Irish welcome to the Lavender and Green Alliance, which will join in the march up Fifth Avenue for the first time this year.
February 17, 2016 was a joyous evening at the Irish Consulate, hosted by Consul General Barbara Jones in honor of the St. Pat’s for All Parade in Queens. This year’s Grand Marshals for The St. Pat’s for all Parade, philanthropist Loretta Brennan Glucksman and best-selling author Colum McCann, also spoke at the standing-room-only event.
The NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade had the honor of being invited to the event and board member Frank McGreal offered a warm Irish welcome to Brendan Fay, Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy, co-chairs of the Lavender and Green Alliance, and the group’s members.
“This year the parade marks the 100th Anniversary of the Easter Rising. In 1916, a small group of Irish men and women dared to act on their deep desire for freedom. Their vision and sacrifices created an Irish Republic that cherishes, ‘all the children of the nation equally.’ We stand on their shoulders whenever Irish men and women gather to honor St. Patrick and to celebrate our shared Irish culture,” McGreal said.
“We are very proud to have Senator George Mitchell as this year’s parade’s Grand Marshal. Senator Mitchell spent five years listening to delegates from Ireland and England, as well as Republican and Unionist groups, to forge the Good Friday Agreement which brought peace to Northern Ireland. He said the hardest part was not getting people to talk to each other. The hardest part was getting people to listen to each other.”
McGreal ended his remarks saying, “To Brendan Fay and the Lavender and Green Alliance, I say, ‘Céad míle fáilte!, one-hundred thousand welcomes.'”
The St. Pat’s for All St. Patrick’s day Parade will start at 2 pm on Sunday, March 6th, 2016 at 43rd Street and Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside, Queens.
Op-ed: All the Ways That NYC's St. Patrick's Day Parade Is a Disgrace
March 10, 2015
By Kerry Kennedy
For the second year in a row, New York Mayor Bill De Blasio has decided to boycott the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade for its refusal to welcome LGBT groups into its ranks. Admittedly, the parade's organizers have made a small concession for 2015: For the first time in the parade's 253-year history, an LGBT group is being included in the march down Fifth Avenue. But it's just one group, and it happens to represent NBC, the network that televises the parade every year, leaving the unfortunate impression that the organizers are more concerned with appeasing their broadcaster than doing what is right. As De Blasio told reporters, this gesture "is too small a change to merit a lot of us participating."
Skeptics and critics might wonder why the Fifth Avenue St. Patrick's Day Parade is facing so much pressure. As they correctly point out, the parade doesn't forbid all gay people from marching, just groups that identify as gay. What's the big deal?
The big deal is that the parade's refusal to recognize LGBT people as equals flaunts our highest ideals as Americans, licenses hatred abroad, and violates the spirit of St. Patrick's Day.
Eighteen months ago, I was in Uganda with some of my colleagues from Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, the organization where I serve as president. We were there to oppose the nation's Anti-Homosexuality Act, which criminalized same-sex relations and carried punishments up to and including life in prison. One evening, we had a reception at our hotel for some of our Ugandan friends. Afterwards, two of the attendees, both transgender, were arrested by the police and thrown in prison. My colleagues and I spent the rest of our trip working to secure their release.
That kind of hatred is legitimized when we in the United States fail to live up to our ideals. The world looks to the United States for moral leadership. As my father, Robert F. Kennedy, said, "Our country began as a center of hope, not only for those who came here, but for those who did not." When we contradict our fundamental belief that all people are created equal, it gives cover to those abroad who have little respect for that belief in the first place.
Fortunately, the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade isn't the Five Boroughs' only celebration of the Emerald Isle. On the snowy morning of Sunday, March 1, I donned a green jacket, pulled on a pair of sturdy boots, and drove to Sunnyside, Queens, for the 16th annual St. Pat's for All parade, where I had the honor of serving as grand marshal alongside the Irish actor Brian O'Byrne.
At first glance, St. Pat's for All looks much like other community celebrations of the great Irish holiday. A troupe of bagpipers led the way, proudly sporting kilts despite the cold. A band on a flatbed truck played a brisk selection of jigs and reels. Local dignitaries, including Mayor De Blasio, waved to spectators. Against the white backdrop, flags of green, orange, and white flapped in the wind.
There was another flag on prominent display in Sunnyside: the rainbow banner that proudly represents LGBT people around the world (the inventor of the flag, Gilbert Baker, was in attendance). That banner is what sets St. Pat's for All apart. It's a celebration of Irish heritage, yes, but it's also a celebration of the diversity that makes this nation great - not just sexual diversity, but racial, religious, gender, and ethnic diversity as well. The parade's motto, taken from the 1916 proclamation of the Irish Republic, echoes its spirit of openness: "Cherishing all the children of the nation equally."
Irish-Americans have a special responsibility to hold our nation to the highest principles. We are descended from people who left their homeland to escape discrimination. But when our ancestors arrived in America, they found only more bigotry. They were stereotyped as alcoholics and regarded as an inferior race. I remember my grandmother Rose taking me to the attic in her Boston home and showing me her scrapbook, which included advertisements that read "NO IRISH NEED APPLY."
For Irish-Americans, St. Patrick's Day is in large part about celebrating our triumph over that kind of prejudice. It's about celebrating our ancestors' belief that despite what others might say, the American promise was as open to them as it was to any other group.
Ultimately, their faith was validated. There's no better proof of the distance our ancestors traveled than the popularity that St. Patrick's Day now enjoys. Today, it's regarded as an American holiday, not just an Irish holiday. As the saying goes, "Everyone's Irish on March 17."
Unfortunately, the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade continues to send a very different message. That's why I chose St. Pat's for All this year. I was proud to be part of such an inspiring display of tolerance, openness, and kindness.
But I nevertheless hope we're approaching the day when we no longer need a parade called St. Pat's for All, when everyone - regardless of what they believe or who they love - will feel welcome to call themselves Irish on March 17.
KERRY KENNEDY is the president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.
St. Patrick's Day For All lives up to its billing in Queens
March 05, 2015
By Cahir O'Doherty
The Irish tend not to give you credit until at least 15 years after your death.
It's nothing personal. We just like to be sure about you. Unless you're a national sports star or a famous actor or the owner of an impressive fortune, you may find you go unsung by us for too long.
There are a lot of reasons why we're this cautious, which we will save for another day. Let's suffice to say we can be notably (and unpardonably) slow to give outstanding people their due.
On Sunday, as I walked along Skillman Avenue in Queens toward the crowds gathering on 46th Avenue for the St. Pat's for All parade, it began to snow. It started off with light flurries but as I walked from block to block it quickly intensified, leaving a light dusting on my coat and knitted hat. It was very beautiful to look at, because snow when it's falling often is.
By the time I reached 44th Street I could hear an Irish jig, a good one, well played. It's amazing the power they have to lift your spirits, but I and all around me were already in good form.
Then I saw a few hardy Irish dancers already doing some practice steps on the closed off street. There was a sense of occasion despite the snow.
Claret, the well known Sunnyside wine bar and restaurant, had been selected as the march headquarters, and already the parade leaders and the top tier of City Hall had arrived and were in festive form. There was a kind of medieval bonhomie at work, which often happens when people are faced with the uncooperative elements. Bad weather makes everyone family.
Some fortified themselves with an early drink, others ordered coffee, and the inevitability of the situation was faced: this would be a St. Patrick's Day Parade in a mini-blizzard. So what?
Once you realized that inescapable fact you moved beyond it to the sights and sounds of the morning. There was a lot to see and hear. Bagpipes competed with traditional musicians, singers took the podium and wowed the crowds, dancers put on impromptu displays that attracted applause.
The hush that descends every time it snows only made the music louder and the colors brighter. It was already, as the Irish say, the best of craic.
The parade grand marshals were the Tony Award winning Irish actor Brian F. O'Byrne and the longtime human rights activist Kerry Kennedy (RFK's daughter). Both were uncommonly eloquent speakers, which became apparent when I asked them why they had agreed to march.
"I remember as a child my grandmother Rose Kennedy bringing me up to the attic of her house where she had scrapbooks," Kennedy told me. "She had cut out clips of newspaper help wanted ads from when she was a kid that said No Irish Need Apply.
"The people of Ireland were oppressed by the Brits for 500 years and when we came here to the United States to the land of the free we were met with more oppression. We of all people should be particularly sensitive to this issue of hatred."
Kennedy was speaking about the reason that the St. Pat's for All parade was originally started in 2000. Banned by the high handed and deeply homophobic parade organizers on Fifth Avenue, Irish gay groups led by community activist Brendan Fay and their principled allies like community leader Kathleen Walsh D'Arcy, founded the Queens parade as a rejoinder to the angry exclusion and prejudice that had been directed at some Irish groups.
But over the 16 years of its life the Queens event has done something remarkable. What began as a modest protest has developed into a growing vision of Irish life as it is actually lived in this city in 2015.
That means it is not only the province of the Irish themselves, but also of their friends, partners and colleagues. All New York comes out.
The parade makes common cause with every other immigrant group in the city and it can deeply relate to their stories. That's part of its unique strength.
It also has considerable political power, but it eschews all the pomp and self-importance in favor of a homespun vision of welcome and hospitality that makes the Fifth Avenue parade look like a Soviet style remnant of an earlier time in comparison.
St. Pat's for All has enormous heart, which is what the Irish are famous for, and it rolls out the welcome mat to everyone who applies to march. It's non-hierarchical, it gives everyone their voice and their moment in the sun (or snow) and by doing so it actually represents the best of our culture.
No one is more important. Everyone has their say.
Despite the flurries people were in sweet tempers on Sunday. The crowds were simply having fun and making new friends along the route. I heard a lot of delighted laughter and I met a lot of my hand shaking neighbors.
So I think it's already past time we acknowledged that by making this parade happen year after year as a labor of love and commitment to justice, Brendan Fay and Kathleen Walsh D'Arcy and the entire board of St. Pat's for All have really done something transformative and beautiful.
They took insult and anger and turned it into gold. That's a work of magic that's as strong as the parade itself.
More power to them. Tell them when you see them.
Snowy Streets, Silent Trains Don't Dampen St. Pat's for All
Gay City News
March 05, 2015
By Kathleen Warnock
With both the MTA and the weather working against the 16th annual St. Pat's for All Parade in Sunnyside, a stalwart contingent still made its way to Queens on Sunday to march through a snowstorm in an inclusive celebration of Ireland's national saint.
The first flakes of snow fell hours earlier than expected on March 1 and built in intensity throughout the afternoon. Participants, including many who contended with the 7 train's closure due to repairs, simply added an extra layer of clothing before gathering at 1 p.m. to hear from parade founders Brendan Fay and Kathleen Walsh D'Arcy, along with grand marshals Kerry Kennedy and Br’an F. O'Byrne and a bevy of dignitaries and elected officials.
"We were concerned with the shutdown of the 7 train," said Fay, "but when I got up on the stage, I looked down the middle of the block on Skillman Avenue, and it was full and it was very beautiful. And the people stayed for the whole of the parade."
"We hoped it would be alright," said D'Arcy. "And people did find creative ways to get here, and they ended up dancing in the street in the snow."
As the crowd shook off the snowflakes, Kennedy, head of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights, named for her later father, recalled looking at the scrapbooks her grandmother, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, kept with newspaper clippings reading "No Irish need apply," then told of traveling to Uganda to meet with LGBT leaders, with several transgender activists arrested as they left the gathering. She drew a parallel between the discrimination in Uganda and the longstanding refusal of the St. Patrick's Day Parade on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue to allow openly gay participation, saying "this gives legitimacy to that kind of hate speech and behavior. That kind of hate and exclusion are all tied together."
Last fall, the organizers of the Manhattan event announced that an LGBT group from NBCUniversal, its broadcast sponsor, would march in 2015 - a concession rejected by most activists who have worked for decades to open up the March 17 parade. Elected officials who turned out in Sunnyside echoed that view.
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito reminded the crowd that neither she nor any official Council contingent will march in the Fifth Avenue parade until it is open to any LGBT group marching under its own banner.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, arriving a few minutes late for the scheduled 2 p.m. start of the parade, agreed that the Fifth Avenue organizers, so far, have made "too small a change to merit a lot of us participating." He added, "There's still time, and we look forward to, you know, some additional discussion, and, certainly, I welcome any discussions with anyone who wants to try and make it more inclusive." Wearing a green tie and lavender shirt in honor of the occasion, he told the Sunnyside crowd, "It's a beautiful, sunny day in my mind," before taking his place behind the St. Pat's for All banner.
Grand marshal O'Byrne, the Tony-award winning actor from County Cavan, flew in from California, where he's shooting his new NBC series "Aquarius," and recalled how he'd been arrested for protesting the Fifth Avenue parade in the '90s and met Fay while they were in jail. Now he's watching from afar as Ireland prepares for a marriage equality referendum this May.
"The tipping point has happened,' said O'Byrne, who observed of gay marriage opponents, "They're going to lose."
He said when he told a friend he was coming to Queens, the friend said: "Oh, the alternative parade." But, O'Byrne said, "I don't consider this 'alternative.' That's frankly nonsense. While others are celebrating on March 17, we're here are on the right side of the civil rights movement."
Among the other speakers were two local City Council members - out gay Democrats Daniel Dromm, who represents Jackson Heights, and Jimmy Van Bramer, whose district includes Sunnyside and Woodside. The Council contingent also included two other out gay Democrats, Corey Johnson of Manhattan and Carlos Menchaca of Brooklyn, and Queens Democrats Rory Lancman, Costa Constantinides, and Karen Koslowitz.
Other speakers included US Representative Joseph Crowley, who heads the Queens County Democratic Party, Barbara Jones, the Irish consul general to New York, and State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who talked about the way in which the state pension funds have been leveraged to pressure companies to adopt pro-LGBT policies as well as to invest in Ireland.
The fire department's Emerald Society Pipes & Drum band, attired in their trademark kilts, started marching at about 2:20, followed by contingent holding aloft the parade's banner, which included the mayor, the founders, the grand marshals, and Consul General Jones.
Gilbert Baker, designer of the rainbow flag, also marched, carrying a huge Irish flag, which he twirled through the wintry wind and snow.
Young girls from the Niall O'Leary School of Irish Dance kicked up clouds of snow as they danced down the street, as they have every year since the parade was founded. The crowd featured neighborhood residents shouting and waving from their front stoops and windows, with some houses flying Irish flags. The parade has provided an annual economic boost to businesses on Skillman, Woodside, and Roosevelt Avenues and become a focus for all-day celebration, including an Irish traditional music festival spread over about a dozen bars. Though neighborhood businesses benefit from the influx of marchers and spectators, some temporarily lost customers as people poured out of stores and restaurants to watch the bands, trucks, floats, and marching groups.
There were, as there usually are, a few protesters, carrying signs calling marchers "Blasphemers" and "Sodomites."
The queer community was well represented, with Pride celebration organizers from Queens, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Washington, DC, along with Pride for Youth/ Long Island.
In addition to the Emerald Society Pipes & Drum, uniformed city employees were also represented by FireFLAG founder Eugene Walsh, the Gay Officers Action League, and members of the youth-focused FDNY Explorers. Irish-American organizations had some of the largest groups in the parade, including the Winged Fist Greater New York Irish Athletic Association, the Irish-American Writers & Artists, the Shannon Gaels Gaelic Athletic Association, complete with a float, An Slua Nua Irish Language Speakers of New York, and the Irish Arts Center.
Both sides in the debate over horse carriages in Manhattan joined the parade, with the Historic Horse-Drawn Carriages of Central Park fielding a carriage that was followed - but not too closely - by NYCLASS, a group that opposes the industry.
Despite the snow, several musical groups managed to play their instruments, some swaddling them in plastic, others pounding the snow off their drum heads and trying frantically to keep reeds and strings in tune.
"The high point, for me was seeing the Marching Cobras and the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, marching down the street," said parade founder D'Arcy. "Then, the Tilted Axes and the FDNY/ EMS pipe band and the traditional musicians, they were all out there, and it must have been so hard for them. I'll bet their fingers were frozen!"
The Marching Cobras of New York is a Bronx-based drum corps, while Tilted Axes is an electric guitar marching band and the Rude Mechanical Orchestra is a local radical marching band and dance troupe.
The parade's musical director, Brian Fleming - who also produced the annual St. Pat's for All concert at the Irish Arts Center on February 27 - led a four-piece ensemble on the back of a flatbed truck, with Fleming on bodhran (drum), Vonnie Quinn on fiddle, Dave Barckow on guitar and vocals, and Jerry Arias on drums.
"This is not really a parade where people march," parade founder Fay said. "This is one where the people dance down the street."
When the parade ended at Roosevelt Avenue and 58th Street under the silent 7 train, the Rude Mechanicals kept playing, walking single file in a line down the sidewalk. Other marchers and spectators peeled off to nearby pubs and taverns as the last strains of music bounced off the elevated tracks above and whipped around in the snow-filled wintry air.
Inside the 25-year fight to let Irish LGBT people march in New York on Paddy's Day
February 28, 2015
A new row has broken out among Irish activists in New York over the refusal of the city's St Patrick's Day Parade to allow an Irish LGBT group to march this year.
Last September, organizers announced, to some fanfare, that for the first time ever the world's largest Paddy's Day parade would include an openly LGBT contingent.
For a moment it looked as if the Irish gay community in New York's bitter, decades-long struggle for recognition was finally over.
As details emerged, however, it became clear this wasn't the victory it seemed to be.
"When I heard the news, I went from total delight to major disappointment," said Brendan Fay, a 56-year-old activist from Drogheda who moved to Queens in 1984.
The group allowed to take part in the 253-year-old march up 5th Avenue was OUT@NBC - made up of LGBT employees of NBC Universal, the event's TV sponsor.
Not the Lavender and Green Alliance, an Irish group co-founded by Fay in 1994.
Not Irish Queers, a group that emerged in 1996, and has been challenging the parade organizers with litigation and street protests since then.
What's more, parade organizers appear to have been pushed into the move, rather than jumping, with the Irish Voice reporting NBC had threatened to end its TV coverage of the event.
Six months on, various factions in the Irish community view the inclusion of OUT@NBC as either a mark of progress to be welcomed, a cynical ploy to keep sponsors on board, or a slap in the face to Irish LGBT groups.
The fight is turning inwards, and now it's getting personal.
Brendan Fay spent almost a decade on the fringes of the 5th Avenue parade - writing letters, waving placards, picketing and getting arrested.
He took part in the infamous 1991 parade - when New York mayor David Dinkins defied organizers and joined the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization (ILGO) in their march down 5th Avenue.
Speaking to TheJournal.ie from his home in Astoria, Queens, his voice fills with emotion as he recounts his "first day as an out gay Irishman," 24 years ago.
Some of the hundreds of thousands of spectators of the main parade threw beer at the group, booing and heckling, screaming "AIDS," and hurling homophobic abuse at them.
Parades were the last thing Fay, a religious studies teacher, thought would one day dominate his life.
But as he explains, "It's only when you emigrate that you understand the importance and the symbolism of the parade."
"And it's when you're excluded from it, that you really understand."
So on March 17 1991, Fay, dressed in a kilt, joined the African-American Mayor of New York in an Irish dancing circle afterwards, telling the New York Times he had just experienced "the best St Patrick's Day [he] ever had."
As liberating as it was, however, that day cost Fay dearly. Soon afterwards, he lost his job as a teacher at a private Catholic secondary school in Queens.
A practicing Catholic, he had gone to St Pat's Seminary in Maynooth, and studied theology at St John's University in Queens.
In 1999, he was arrested twice in a week after protesting non-inclusive parades in Brooklyn and the Bronx.
After that, he took matters into his own hands.
A meeting at Donovan’s pub in Woodside between Fay, Irish nurse Ellen Duncan, and gay schoolteacher Danny Dromm, gave birth to the St Pats for All parade, an inclusive and racially diverse alternative to the main event.
Since 2000, it has marched through Queens every year under a banner that quotes the Proclamation of the Republic: "Cherishing all the children of the nation equally."
Fay's focus now is very much on the nuts and bolts of running the annual event, which is expanding in size and political support every year.
With two days to go until the event, he's distracted, and his husband Tom, an American hematologist and oncologist whom he married in 2003, is taking phone messages and arranging call-backs.
Fay is making final arrangements for this year's Grand Marshals - Kerry Kennedy, the human rights activist and daughter of Senator Robert Kennedy, and the actor Brian F. O'Byrne, who plays Detective Mick Moynihan ("Cig") on Love/Hate.
But despite this focus on the event he runs along with Kathleen Walsh D'Arcy, he says he's still "determined to do everything [he] possibly can" to get Irish LGBT inclusion in the 5th Avenue parade in two weeks' time.
I've appealed to Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Grand Marshal, the Mayor [Bill de Blasio], and Irish leaders in New York, to do everything they possibly can. This is New York, and good things can happen in hours and minutes. All it would take is a telephone call.
If that call doesn't come, though, he's ready to dust off his placards and take to the streets of Manhattan once again.
Of course - we'll do what we've always done. We have to protest exclusion and discrimination.
However, that last-minute phone call is unlikely to arrive.
After September's announcement, organizers said Irish gay activists could apply to march in 2016, but that there was no room for any more participants this year.
"It's the same kind of trickery that we've seen in the past," says John Francis Mulligan from the group Irish Queers.
"They used the exact same argument in 1993, when they said the parade route wasn't long enough."
That year saw an acrimonious and high-profile court battle between New York city officials and organizers from the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) - a conservative, Catholic, male-only Irish-American group.
Despite their consistent denial that they are motivated by homophobic discrimination, a lawyer for the AOH admitted to Judge Kevin Thomas Duffy, that previous rulings about waiting lists were "an attempt to defuse the situation" and a sham.
In other words, the organizers would never allow LGBT groups to carry banners in the parade, no matter how short the waiting list, or how long the parade route.
And in 1991, after Mayor Dinkins marched with ILGO, the AOH banned Division 7 of its organization, which happened to have overseen that inclusion.
"You have to look at the history," says Mulligan, a 45-year-old Manhattan office-worker who went to primary school in Carrickmore, in his mother’s native Co Tyrone, but grew up in New York. "There is no change here. A change would be to say 'We'll only allow one Irish LGBT group to march this year, but we'll entertain other groups next year.'"
For him, it's no accident that the first ever LGBT group allowed to march in the parade belongs to a corporate sponsor, and not the Irish community itself.
"They don’t admit that there are Irish and Irish-American LGBT people. In their eyes, we can't be Irish and queer. We can only be one or the other."
This, however, is the philosophy of a group of "provocateurs," according to Niall O'Dowd, the influential and well-connected publisher of the Irish Voice and Irish America newspapers, and founder of the IrishCentral website.
"[Irish Queers] come out once a year to protest the parade, and they don’t ever involve themselves in the community in any meaningful way," he tells TheJournal.ie.
In a scathing column last month, he called the inclusion of OUT@NBC a "seismic concession" and condemned Irish Queers for looking for "cheap headlines."
In contrast to parades in Ireland, says O'Dowd, the New York event is "a Catholic parade before it's an Irish parade. That's what you have to understand about it."
While he supports a fully inclusive event, and has repeatedly criticized organizers for being slow to change, O'Dowd likens progress on this issue to talks leading up to the Good Friday Agreement, in which he played a role.
"Very few people get exactly what they want right at the beginning of negotiations. But what you learn to do is win the small victories. You put your head down and you battle on. This is the longest-running open sore in the Irish-American community. A huge effort has been made, and a solution has been found, though it's not the ultimate solution."
O'Dowd, who is the brother of Fine Gael TD Fergus O'Dowd, says the inclusion of a gay group this year means organizers have "conceded the key principle."
The Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, has agreed to be Grand Marshal, despite what he called "much fiery mail and public criticism" from the other side of this debate.
In his recent column, O'Dowd singled out Brendan Fay's Lavender and Green Alliance as "the only gay Irish group with real standing," while castigating Irish Queers as a "fit for purpose, once a year serial boycotter of the parade."
Fay himself calls this appraisal "appalling."
"I was shocked to read his column. From the first moment, this has always been about being Irish and LGBT. It was never simply about being gay. It was about reclaiming our heritage. I don't believe in put-downs and division, and driving a wedge between people who share a common longing. To his credit, Niall O'Dowd has used his paper to do a lot of good, but he has this one wrong."
In an equally scathing response on their website, Irish Queers defended the group against the publisher's attack: "When O'Dowd says Irish Queers don't have standing, he means we don't have standing with him, and with the entwined business, political, and religious power brokers who run official Irish politics. He also means that the Irish community in New York is a tiny, closed circle of people who can be brought in or pushed out - and not the expansive, bustling community of New Yorkers who share in different aspects of Irish culture, different relationships with Ireland, and wildly different politics."
Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Mulligan adds: "I think [O'Dowd] sometimes walks around and expects to be genuflected to, like a 1950s parish priest, because of who he is."
While these decades-old differences and factions threaten to mar the movement towards inclusion, at a crucial moment, there is at least one thing everyone agrees on: This wouldn't be an issue in Ireland itself.
"They have this romanticized version of what Ireland is, and that's what they're trying to replicate here in New York,” says Mulligan of the older, more conservative opponents of inclusion in the parade.
"And that doesn't exist in Ireland now, and it doesn't exist in New York now either."
Brendan Fay says he's "so heartened" by the upcoming marriage equality referendum here, but was "disappointed" by Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan's decision to march in the 5th Avenue parade on March 17th.
That decision contrasts with the ever-expanding group of major political figures in New York, who are boycotting the 5th Avenue parade, and increasingly attending St Pat's for All.
Last year, Democrat Bill de Blasio became the first Mayor in a generation to refuse to attend the Manhattan parade, and despite the inclusion of OUT@NBC, appears intent on staying away again in 2015.
He joins major New York powerbrokers like Christine Quinn, the openly lesbian Council member who was arrested with Brendan Fay in 1999 and ran for mayor in 2013.
That's as well as Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and Council members including Jimmy Van Bramer, Rosie Mendez and of course, Danny Dromm, who helped found St Pat's for All, and is now a City Council member.
The tide is turning, but after 25 years of arrests, protests, court battles, and now with internal factions bubbling over, Brendan Fay puts things in perspective.
"I remember in 1992, when I got a message on an old fax machine, to say that a lesbian and gay youth group had won the prize for best float in the St Patrick's Day parade that year in Cork...and here we still are in 2015."
Whether Irish by birth, heritage or simply affection.... all welcome!
"cherishing all the children of the nation equally...."
Proclamation of the Irish Republic, Easter 1916
Gays Unlikely to March in St. Patrick's Day Parades Despite Push From Mayors
March 14, 2014
By Paul McMorrow
Sam Adams is out, but gays are still not allowed in Boston and New York.
The joke, Brendan Fay recalls, was that peace would come to Northern Ireland before gay people like him would be allowed to take part in New York City's St. Patrick's Day parade. Peace came on Good Friday, 1998, but Fay is still trying to march down Fifth Avenue.
It's been a long fight. But he now has some powerful allies. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, both newly-elected, ambitious, self-styled progressives, have said they will boycott their respective city's St. Patrick's Day parades if LGBT groups continue to be excluded.
Walsh has tried to broker a deal between gay rights advocates and parade organizers, so far without success. De Blasio marched instead in St. Pat's for All, a counter-parade organized by Fay that welcomes gay groups.
Their efforts have largely been symbolic, though on Friday Boston Beer Co., the maker of Sam Adams, withdrew as a sponsor of Boston's parade because of the exclusion. But the cities have two of the largest and most influential Irish Catholic populations in the nation and the firm stances of their new mayors could finally bring long-simmering tensions to a head.
"I'm as Irish as anybody," Walsh says. "There's no reason for this, most certainly in 2014. We're way beyond this as a country, and I wish we could get way beyond it as a parade. Boston and New York, come on!"
Getting beyond it has not been easy. The St. Patrick's Day celebrations in New York and Boston are permitted by each city but run by private organizations, a distinction that allows parade organizers to bar gay groups from marching. A 1993 federal court decision upheld the right of New York's parade organizers to exclude groups marching under gay rights banners. Two years later, a 9-0 Supreme Court decision held that gay groups couldn't force their way into the Boston parade.
The two parades have clung to those decisions ever since, even as other parades opened their doors to gay groups. In Dublin, Galway, Cork and other Irish cities, gay and lesbian groups march in St. Patrick's Day events without incident. Chicago, which has a large Irish Catholic population, has allowed gay groups since the mid-1990s. "Our city realized a long time ago that we have so much more in common than apart" says Tom Tunney, Chicago's first openly gay alderman. "We're a city of cultures, and the LGBT community is a part of it."
The resistance to inclusion is a stark contrast to the nation's growing acceptance of gay rights. In recent months, federal judges have struck down state bans on same-sex marriage in Utah, Virginia, Kentucky Oklahoma and Texas and challenges are pending in many others.
"Our lives are being discussed and dissected in courts around the country," Fay says. "Whether you're a firefighter or a bagpiper or a same-sex family with children, Irish heritage and culture belongs to all of us."
The marriage equality movement began in Massachusetts, when the state's high court ruled in 2003 that bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional. But the St. Patrick's Day parade in its capital city has been far less welcoming. Every year, gay groups would apply to march through South Boston on St. Patrick's Day, and every year, with little fanfare, they received denials. The city's former mayor, Thomas Menino, refused to march in the parade as long as gay groups were excluded - but that didn't keep him from politicking on the sidelines of the route.
Walsh is a union-backed former state legislator who hails from a working-class neighborhood very much like South Boston, which hosts the city's parade. He has been an unlikely hero to the city's gay community since he defied the Catholic Church and voted down a constitutional amendment that would have overturned the court ruling legalizing gay marriage in the state. His efforts to open up the city's parade - which have been aided by Stephen Lynch, the conservative Democrat who represents South Boston in Congress - have put him at odds with two natural constituencies.
South Boston was at the epicenter of Boston's 1970's busing crisis. Two decades of rampant gentrification have remade much of the neighborhood, but many of the holdouts retain a frayed relationship with the outside world.
"There are some dissidents and it happens that a few of them run the parade," says Susan Ulrich, a South Boston native who is active in the city's LGBT community. "The people who run the parade are fighters, for better or worse. I grew up in a kind and gracious place. But if you back them into a corner, they will fight. If you look at the way the Irish were treated in this country, and the way the LGBT community treated, they're remarkably similar. Both communities had to fight very hard. But communities that have to fight for every single thing they have, it dies hard."
The Parade Where Everyone Can Be Irish
March 06, 2014
By Laura A. Shepard
St. Patrick's Day came early in Sunnyside. Children wearing bright green shamrock-shaped hats waved and smiled to the rainbow of people parading down Skillman Avenue in the St. Patrick's Day for All Parade on Sunday. Though it was a cold March day, the spirit of love and equality fueled the crowds of dancers, marching bands, bagpipers, activists, politicians and spectators.
Many of the participants, including Mayor de Blasio, will not be marching up Manhattan's Fifth Avenue on March 17 because lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning people have been barred from openly partaking in the event with banners and as organized groups since 1991.
As a result of the ban, a hodgepodge of cultural, political and community groups formed an all-inclusive parade in Queens 15 years ago to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.
"This parade celebrates diversity, inclusion and unity, and that is what this city is about," de Blasio said. "A lot of times you have to start things in the direction of progressive values and start a process of change ... and over time people take to it and understand it is the right way."
This year, more people than ever before attended the parade, hailing from all five boroughs, Long Island, New Jersey, Boston, Washington, DC and even Ireland for the event. Elected officials from all over the city came to show support, including Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), who urged everyone to patronize the businesses in his district, "a community that supports equality for all."
Praising the "Irish heritage that has made the city great," de Blasio bade the crowd "Eirinn go Brach," which means "Ireland forever" in Gaelic and informed everyone walking in the parade there would be an official after-party at Saints and Sinners pub in Woodside.
At the kickoff, parade co-chairwoman Terry McGovern, an advocate for human rights and those with HIV/AIDS, spoke of the violence and discrimination people face because of their sexual identity throughout the world, particularly in the 78 countries that criminalize being LGBTQ.
"This is not just a dispute about a small, benign matter," McGovern said. "Irish people of all should understand this."
Noting that her ancestors partook in Irish culture and the struggle for freedom and that the Catholic League does not own the culture, McGovern invited the crowd (all of whom were Irish for the day) to resist exclusion and celebrate.
Retired state Sen. Tom Duane also co-chaired the parade and praised the lifting of the ban on immigrants with HIV/AIDS, but added that more must be done for all immigrants.
Representatives from the Irish government said the modern island is slowly becoming a place where all citizens are treated equally. Panti Bliss, a drag queen from Dublin famous for denouncing homophobia and oppression, waved to the crowd from the backseat of a red convertible.
Children from the Keltic Dreams dance group at PS 59 in the Bronx performed traditional jigs in colorful costumes before the kickoff and children from the Niall O'Leary School of Irish Dance pranced through the parade. Girl Scout troops, soccer players from the Shannon Gael Sports Club and stilt-walkers from the Swim Strong Foundation also took part.
Members of Irish Queers carried signs with the slogan "Unicorns Not Uniforms," denouncing the police officers, fire fighters and other city employees who march in uniform up Fifth Avenue.
Emmaia Gelman, a member of Irish Queers, lamented the way politicians have used the St. Pat's for All Parade in the past to "have it both ways," by marching in both Queens and Manhattan. "We made sure the parade on Fifth Avenue was presented as a problem," Gelman said, adding that her group is very excited to have de Blasio's support.
Lady Clover Honey, host of Channel 25's "Under the Pink Carpet," said this year's parade is "the most fabulous it ever was," and that "Part of diversity is getting out the green sequins and emeralds," adding her delight in expressing herself as both Irish American and fabulous. "As an Irish person, the other parade gives us a bad name; we're welcoming and accepting."
Parade founder Brenden Fay said he felt heartened by the positive spirit and "grateful for the change taking place."
Sunnyside resident Stephen Maneri said that he hadn't known about the parade until Sunday, despite the fact that he is gay and lives a block away, but was amazed and overwhelmed by the show of support.
Nathan Andrews, a bagpiper from New York Scottish Pipe and Drum, played in the parade for his fifth or sixth year. He said the group supports the Queens parade's all-inclusiveness and that the group does not march in the other parade.
"I'm happy to show support for all people," the Rev. Donald Doherty from the Church of St. Francis Xavier in Manhattan said. "Pope Francis said 'Who are we to judge? We're all God's beloved.'"
Leon Silvers was "pleasantly surprised" by the fact that there were only a few antigay protesters carrying signs referring to Sodom and Gomorrah along the parade route. "Hate was not out today, it was all love and support," he said.
Parade co-chairwoman Kathleen Walsh-D'Arcy was pleased by the turnout among families who brought their children to an event predicated on human rights and equality. She hopes that one day everyone can march on Fifth Avenue, but said that "our parade is the Queens parade and we'll still march here."
Irish Internet Drag Sensation Joins Record Inclusive St. Pat's
Gay City News
March 05, 2014
By Kathleen Warnock
For the first time since its founding in 2000, the St. Patrick's for All Parade this year played host to a New York mayor who traveled to Sunnyside, Queens to march, but will not be on hand March 17 when the big Fifth Avenue St. Patrick's Day Parade - which excludes openly gay participants - steps off.
On March 2, Mayor Bill de Blasio joined a group that included this year's grand marshals, former State Senator Tom Duane and Terry McGovern, founder of the HIV Law Project.
A last minute addition to that contingent was Irish activist, entrepreneur, drag queen, and recent Internet sensation Panti Bliss, aka Rory O'Neill.
Preceded two nights before by a gala benefit concert at the Irish Arts Center in Manhattan, the parade opened with speeches and music from a flatbed truck. Words of support from de Blasio and other politicians and comments by Duane and McGovern were punctuated by reels and jigs performed by Irish musicians and dancers.
Panti recently sparked an international conversation on homophobia and exclusion with her "Noble Call," delivered from the stage of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin - an event viewed more than half a million times on YouTube. Irish Americans led by Aidan Connolly brought her over to the US to march in Queens' inclusive parade, where she fit right in.
"You have answered exclusion with inclusion and acceptance, met hatred with love and hospitality," grand marshal McGovern, accompanied by her partner and her son, told the crowd from the flatbed stage. "We march today for human rights, we march against discrimination, and we honor that complex, living, evolving, beautiful landscape called Irish culture. I am so certain that what we are doing today, resisting exclusion, is cultural."
Duane, her fellow grand marshal, recalled his own journey to the latest parade, from the days when the Irish gays and lesbians who wanted to march on Fifth Avenue were turned away and arrested, to his career in the City Council and State Senate, where he introduced the legislation that created marriage equality in New York.
"We are here to honor the extraordinary Irish heritage of this city and we want to do it in a way that respects all people and all communities," de Blasio said to a roar from the crowd. "This is exactly the way I think we should celebrate in New York City - in an inclusive way."
This year's was not the new mayor's first St. Pat's for All - he marched as public advocate and participated in the very first Queens parade as part of Hillary Clinton's 2000 Senate campaign staff.
The mayor has won praise for his decision to return to former Mayor David Dinkins' tradition of not participating in the discriminatory Fifth Avenue parade, but has faced pressure to bar other city workers from marching in uniform and with banners identifying their municipal government affiliation. Just days before the St. Pat's for All event, when Police Commissioner William Bratton announced he would march with uniformed officers on March 17, de Blasio said, "I absolutely respect his decision."
Since the first march in 2000, which Brendan Fay founded "to celebrate Irish heritage and culture regardless of race, gender, creed, or sexual orientation," he, co-chair Kathleen Walsh D'Arcy, and a team of volunteers built the event into an annual party that has expanded to include the Irish Arts Center concert, produced by Irish musician Brian Fleming. Smaller, more informal Irish music fests have also popped up in bars and restaurants throughout Sunnyside and Woodside, the neighborhoods the parade traverses.
This year's contingent of elected officials was the largest to date, according to organizers. Public Advocate Letitia James, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, and State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli all said a few words, along with three members of the Queens delegation to the US House of Representatives -Joe Crowley, Carolyn Maloney, and Grace Meng.
A contingent of City Council members, hosted by Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, the local representative and the majority leader, included Daniel Dromm from Jackson Heights, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, two newly-elected members from the borough, Costa Constantinides and Paul Vallone, and three out gay freshman members, Corey Johnson of Chelsea, Carlos Menchaca of Brooklyn, and Ritchie Torres of the Bronx. Queens Borough President Melinda Katz was joined by her Manhattan counterpart, Gale Brewer, and both stepped up to the microphone to voice good wishes to the crowd.
Irish Consul General Noel Kilkenny and his wife Hanora have hosted receptions for the parade and marched in it for the last several years, and this year the Irish government sent cabinet member Ciaran Cannan. Members of the Irish Dail, the nation's parliament, sent a recorded message of support.
"The Ireland I live in, the Ireland I represent is changing, it's evolving," Cannan said. "It's slowly becoming a place where regardless of your sexual orientation, regardless of your ethnicity, regardless of your religious beliefs, you are treated as an equal citizen."
Panti, who stood nearly as tall as New York's mayor in her heels and blonde bouffant wig, told the crowd, "I've come all the way from Dublin to be here today, unlike our previous speaker not at the request of the Irish government, but at the request of the St. Pat's for All organizers, and I'm prouder of that. This crowd in front of me reflects the open and inclusive Ireland that I'm from and that I recognize and the one that I want to see reflected around the world."
Panti then repaired to a red convertible and joined the dozens of groups from all the boroughs and from cities including Boston, Washington, and Dublin. Girl Scouts marched alongside Sunnyside dog owners, giant puppets, half a dozen marching bands of all ages, pipes and drums, Irish athletic associations, the Irish-American Writers Association, the Gay Officers' Action League (GOAL) and FireFLAG/EMS, and members of the Sirens Motorcycle Club, the so-called Dykes on Bikes who lead off the Heritage of Pride parade each June in Manhattan.
Organizers estimated that about 90 groups turned out to march, and the sidewalks along the route down Skillman Avenue were lined with locals and visitors from across the East River and beyond - many of whom appreciated the fact that the feared snowstorm caused the MTA to cancel scheduled track work, keeping the #7 train running from Manhattan.
In addition to fans waving Irish and rainbow flags, the parade, as usual, drew some protesters, who carried signs condemning gays and lesbians. One small elderly man with a downturned mouth held up a sign reading "SODOM AND GOMORRAH!" Panti called out to him, "Sodom and Gomorrah? There was a fellow with the same sign a few blocks back ‘Is that a common name in Queens?’"
Panti was more often met with cheers and whistles, as she waved, blew kisses, and posed with people who ran out to the car for a photo. She had reprised her "Noble Call" at the Irish Arts Center concert two evenings before, getting three curtain calls from the full house, whose members swarmed her afterward.
"I've had thousands of emails, cards, and letters from all over the world, many from gay people, of course, but also from women, people in wheelchairs, people with Asperger's...anybody who feels on the outside," Panti told Michael Musto in Out magazine. "What started out as distressing and difficult in the end turned into something so positive. It's been amazing and exhilarating and exhausting."
Toward the end of the parade, Panti's convertible caught up with the flatbed truck, on which a band consisting of concert producer Fleming, guitarist and singer Dave Barckow, fiddler Vonnie Quinn, and Gerry Arias on drums were playing everything from Britney Spears to Black Sabbath to classic Irish jigs and reels.
"The truck turns a corner and comes to an unexpected stop," Fleming recalled. "We've run into the back of the parade. There, facing us, perched on her convertible, waving presidentially is Panti! Dave switches songs to Madonna's 'Material Girl.' Vonnie pitches in with an Irish reel and Gerry never misses a beat. Panti lights up and sings along. Donna and Dana, her drivers, jump out of the car and dance in the street. The Keltic Dreams Irish dancers, Hispanic and African-American girls from the Bronx with their teacher Caroline Duggan, in their colorful Irish dancing costumes, bust out their Riverdance moves, and just when you thought the day couldn't get any better, it does."
De Blasio Among Attendees at 'St. Pat's for All' Parade
Time Warner Cable News
March 03, 2014
By Bobby Cuza
Mayor Bill de Blasio won't be marching in the big St. Patrick's Day parade in Manhattan, but he did march in the parade called "St. Pat's For All" Sunday in Queens.
The "St. Pat's for All" parade is open and welcome to all New Yorkers, and it usually draws a large contingent of LGBT paradegoers.
De Blasio praised the parade, saying it captures the spirit of New York City.
"This parade is what New York City is all about," he said. "This is a parade that celebrates inclusion, diversity, unity. That is what this city is about. That is what has made this city strong."
The parade in Sunnyside may not be as big, or have as much tradition, as the parade up Fifth Avenue on St. Patrick's Day, but it did have the participation of the mayor and other top city elected officials who will boycott the Manhattan parade.
It will be the first time in 20 years that the mayor does not march in the Manhattan St. Patrick's Day Parade.
The boycott is over the Manhattan parade's long-standing policy of excluding gay groups.
Organizers said that the "St. Pat's for All" event is the city's most diverse St. Patrick's Day parade.
"Everyone knows that this St. Patrick's Day parade is all-inclusive to everybody, and that's why it's important," said one person. "But it's really a celebration of Irish culture, of the Irish people, and that's what St. Patrick's Day is about. That's what it originally was about."
"I like coming to this parade because there's many different groups that I don't normally see," said another. "You'll see as the parade goes on, there's some Mexican cultures, there's people in these beautiful dresses and they're dancing, and so this parade is particularly a lot more fun to see."
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito also marched in the parade, as did numerous members of the City Council.
Former state Senator Tom Duane, who was the only openly gay member of the state Senate for a long period of time, served as one of the grand marshals of the parade.
Irish Politicians Support 'St Pat's For All'
The Irish World
March 03, 2014
By Staff Reporter
A video uploaded to YouTube at the end of last month features a message of support in inclusion to the 'St Pat's For All' group in New York. It features contributions from a series of Irish politicians: John Halligan TD (Independent), Senator Averil Power (Fianna Fail), Senator Ivana Bacik (The Labour Party) and Jerry Buttimer TD (Fine Gael). New York Mayor De Blasio announced recently that he would not be taking part in the main St Patrick's Day Parade as it would not allow gay and lesbian groups march with their own banners.
Click here for video of Irish Parliamentarians Support for 'St. Pat's for All'.
Mayor De Blasio Joins Gay-Friendly, 'St. Pat's For All' Parade In Queens
March 02, 2014
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has joined the gay-friendly St. Pat's For All Parade in Queens, saying the parade celebrates inclusion.
De Blasio has said he will skip the nation's largest St. Patrick's parade in Manhattan later this month because parade organizers prohibit participants from carrying signs or banners identifying themselves as gay.
"We're just trying to show that it takes everyone to make this city a better place," one participant told WCBS 880's Jim Smith.
De Blasio also marched in the Queens parade when he was a public advocate. His predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, staunchly supported gay rights but still marched in the traditional parade for 12 years.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton did not appear at the parade in Queens on Sunday but does plan to march in the Manhattan parade, a decision that the mayor said he respects, CBS 2's Steve Langford reported.
"I absolutely respect his decision. I say this is something where we have to respect everyone's individuality and their right to make their own decision," De Blasio said.
The Catholic League denounced the mayor in what they called a bid to push the gay agenda.
Mayor Bill de Blasio attends gay-friendly St. Patrick's Day parade in Queens
March 02, 2014
By Emily Ngo
Mayor Bill de Blasio marched Sunday near the head of the gay-friendly St. Pat's for All parade in Queens, leading a contingent of elected officials who will also join him in boycotting the St. Patrick's Day parade in Manhattan later this month because it excludes LGBT community members.
"We are here to honor the extraordinary Irish heritage of this city . . . and we want to do it in a way that respects all people and all communities," de Blasio said.
Three other citywide officials -- Public Advocate Letitia James, Comptroller Scott Stringer and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito -- also attended the parade along Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside and Woodside, which drew thousands of revelers. They will skip the larger and older annual parade on March 17 along Fifth Avenue, which attracts about 1 million people.
Organizers of the Manhattan event do not allow openly gay participants to carry banners, wear pins or otherwise identify themselves as gay. Parade representatives could not be reached for comment Sunday, but they have said the event does not discriminate.
Catholic League president Bill Donohue, who marches with his conservative group, has said the parade is "not about homosexuals, or abortion, or anything other than honoring St. Patrick."
Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a vocal proponent of gay rights, but marched in Manhattan each year. De Blasio will not prohibit city employees -- including police officers and firefighters -- from marching in uniform, though James and others have pushed for such a ban.
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton has said he will be participate, and de Blasio Sunday said he had no trouble with Bratton's call. "We have to respect everyone's individuality and their right to make their own decision," he said.
Irish-American and openly gay Council Member Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), who helped found St. Pat's for All 15 years ago, will not attend the Manhattan parade but hopes organizers will change their policy. He pointed out that South Boston's St. Patrick's Day parade this year will include a gay advocacy group. "It's said that on St. Patrick's Day everybody can be Irish," he said. "It's time that the Fifth Avenue parade live up to that."
Mayor de Blasio, Skipping Fifth Ave., Marches In St. Pat's For All Parade In Queens
The NY Daily News
March 02, 2014
By Erin Durkin
Mayor de Blasio will be the first mayor in two decades to skip the St. Patrick's Day parade down Fifth Ave., but he joined the gay-friendly St. Pat's For All parade in Queens Sunday.
"We are here to honor the extraordinary Irish heritage of this city," he said at the Skillman Ave. parade. "We want to do it in a way that respects all people and all communities. This is exactly the way I think we should celebrate New York City - in an inclusive way," he said.
The Sunnyside parade was launched 15 years ago in response to the refusal by Manhattan parade organizers to allow groups publicly identifying themselves as gay from marching.
This year, all four city wide office holders - also including City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Controller Scott Stringer, and Public Advocate Letitia James - opted to march in the Queens parade and skip the Manhattan one.
Grand marshall Terry McGovern, a Columbia professor, said the controversy was not merely symbolic. "This is not really just a dispute about a small benign matter. Discrimination is never a small matter. It institutionalizes hatred," she said.
Mayor Bloomberg typically marched in both the traditional parade and St. Pat's For All.
But de Blasio said he was fine with Police Commissioner Bill Bratton's decision to march in the Fifth Ave. parade.
"I absolutely respect his decision. I've said this is something where we have to respect everyone's individuality and their right to make their own decision," he said.
De Blasio irked some Rockaway residents by not showing up for that neighborhood's St. Patrick's Day parade Saturday.
Asked about the decision, he initially said, "my approach has been to embrace parades that are inclusive, and that's the standard we're going to hold" - although he marched in the parade last year as a candidate and in previous years, and it has not been subject to controversy over the role of gay groups.
A spokesman later clarified that he was actually absent from the Rockaway parade for scheduling reasons. He skipped Sunday's Staten Island St. Patrick's Day parade because of its ban on displays of gay identity, though he has marched in that parade before.
NYC mayor joins gay-friendly 'St. Pat's For All' parade; de Blasio will boycott larger parade
Associated Press/Fox News
March 02, 2014
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who plans to skip the nation's largest St. Patrick's Day parade because participants are banned from carrying signs or banners identifying themselves as gay, joined the gay-friendly St. Pat's For All Parade Sunday, saying it honors the traditions of the city by celebrating inclusion.
"This is a parade that celebrates inclusion. ... That is what the city is about. That is what has made this city strong," De Blasio said after arriving at the parade, an annual tradition in Queens that attracts a few thousand participants.
In a nod to those who started the Queens parade in 2000, the mayor said it was sometimes necessary to "start a positive change, even when it doesn't seem easy."
"Over time," de Blasio added, "people cling to it. They understand it's the right way."
De Blasio also marched in the Queens parade when he was a public advocate. His predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, staunchly supported gay rights but still marched in the traditional parade for 12 years. The Manhattan parade includes about 200,000 participants and attracts more than 1 million spectators.
Irish gay advocates went to court in the early 1990s to try to win a place in the Manhattan parade where they could display their banners but judges said parade organizers had a First Amendment right to choose who participates. Since then, gay activists have protested along the route of the parade that started in 1762.
De Blasio's Irish-American police commissioner, William Bratton, has said he will march in the Manhattan parade.
In Boston, a gay equality group said Saturday that a group of gay military veterans can march under its banner as part of a tentative deal with parade organizers brokered by Boston Mayor Martin Walsh that eases a two-decade ban on gay organizations.
Mayor Martin Walsh had threatened to boycott that city's St. Patrick's Day parade unless organizers allowed the group of gay military veterans to march. MassEquality Executive Director Kara Coredini said that marchers from the gay-rights group would not, however, be allowed to wear clothing or hold signs that refer to sexual orientation. Negotiators will work out final details in the coming week, she said. De Blasio urged everyone to enjoy the Queens parade and keep the new tradition alive.
"It was important to have it, to set the right tone, to set the right path for all of us," he said.
New York and Boston St Patrick's Day parades face gay rights controversy
* Boston parade may allow MassEquality to march
*Mayors de Blasio and Walsh threaten boycotts
March 02, 2014
By Kayla Epstein
On Saturday, after two decades in which gay groups were barred from participation in South Boston's famous St Patrick's Day parade, it was announced that the organizers are looking into allowing MassEquality, one of Massachusetts's most prominent gay advocacy groups, to march.
The breakthrough came after a fierce series of negotiations, during which Mayor Martin Walsh threatened to boycott the event. But there was a caveat: while the group can march under its own banner, it will not be able to wear shirts or bear signs that include the word "gay" or make references to its members' sexuality.
"The fact that Parade organizers are willing to have a conversation with MassEquality is an important part of ongoing public dialogue about LGBT people and the Parade," Kara Coredini, the group's executive director, said in a statement on Saturday.
"But at this point, it's still just a conversation. MassEquality has not accepted any invitation to march, and will only consider accepting an invitation that allows LGBT people to march openly."
As Boston's parade marches towards progress, eyes now turn to America's largest such march - the one held every 17 March in New York City. The New York parade's decades-long ban against participation by LGBT groups has sparked a public outcry from elected officials and advocacy groups.
Such situations in Boston and New York serve as forceful reminder that even in deep blue states, pockets of discrimination remain.
The New York St Patrick's day is older than America itself. According to the event's website, the first celebration took place on 17 March 1762.
The city government got serious about the issue in February, when a group of advocates and elected officials called on Mayor Bill de Blasio "not to organize marchers for or allow personnel to participate in this anti-LGBTQ procession, either in uniform or with any banner that identifies them with the city".
Though de Blasio said he would still allow city workers to participate if they wished, he plans to boycott the parade.
"I will be participating in a number of other events to honor the Irish heritage of this city and the contributions of Irish Americans," he said, on 4 February. "But I simply disagree with the organizers of that parade in their exclusion of some individuals in this city."
Last year, when de Blasio was still public advocate and just a candidate for mayor, he also declined to attend, due to the ban. As mayor, his absence will send a much greater message.
Last week, the New York City council, led by progressive de Blasio ally Melissa Mark-Viverito, announced that it would not be attending in an official capacity. The 51-member council will not march under its official banner, nor will its sergeant at arms be present, although individual council members will be allowed to participate if they wish.
"This City Council is committed to celebrating and respecting the diversity of New York City and that is why we've decided to not participate in the parade. I hope the organizers will eventually realize that the parade will be better when all New Yorkers can march openly and proudly," Mark-Viverito said in a statement.
She was joined in her statement by several council members, including three who are openly gay. Members of the New York City government have declined to attend the St Patrick's Day parade in the past - the former speaker Christine Quinn, who is openly gay, did not march - but the annual celebration of all things Irish usually draws some of the city and state's most prominent politicians.
The parade serves as a chance for officials to show off their human side, interact with the crowd and sneak in photo ops. If the ban remains in place, de Blasio will be the first mayor in 20 years not to attend.
That is why on Sunday de Blasio found himself standing on the back of a truck on a residential street in Sunnyside, Queens, addressing revelers at the local St Pat's For All parade. At 15 years old, St Pat's for All is a toddler compared to its older relative, an epic bacchanal that proceeds down Fifth Avenue, regularly draws over a million spectators and features thousands of participants.
De Blasio's remarks lasted less than two minutes, and while he did not directly address the Fifth Avenue parade's controversial policy, he hailed the St Pat's for All parade for being emblematic of New York City's diversity.
"This parade is what New York City is all about," he said, before stepping on to the route alongside several prominent city officials.
Local LGBT groups like the Stonewall Democrats and the Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride Committee were not far behind.
Robert Nolan, 39, attended the Queens parade with his daughter, who waved a rainbow flag as the procession swept by. Nolan, a local, praised the parade for its "openness and inclusion" and denounced the Fifth Avenue parade's policies as "contrary to Irish heritage, and contrary to American heritage." He had no plans to attend.
Not everyone was thrilled to see LGBT groups marching. David Lane, 68, a Queens resident, stood alongside the route with a friend; both held signs reading: "Sodom and Gomorrah".
Lane was there "to protest the blasphemous parade this is", he said. He added that he had done the same several years before.
"I won't wear green today," he added, before turning away to face the parade route, down which four LGBT groups were marching, sporting not only green but rainbow flags.
St. Pat's For All parade in New York 'restoring the Irish welcome'
The Irish Times
March 01, 2014
By Maeve Higgins
I'm in a small kitchen two blocks away from the last stop on the Q train - it smells like caramel and clean laundry and IÕm talking to Tom Moulton, full-time pediatric hematologist oncologist, part-time baker.
"Soda bread, scones, ginger snaps, oatmeal cookies and," he shakes his head "cashew nut brittle, if I have time".
The vittles will raise funds for St. Pat's For All - a parade founded by Moulton's husband Brendan Fay, now in its 15th year, taking place tomorrow afternoon in Queens, New York.
"To say 'You do not belong' is such a hurtful and harmful message." Fay is a small bright-eyed man who, when he looks at you, really looks at you. "All of this talk about Ireland of the welcomes, we're meant to be known for that, so to me St. Pat's For All is almost restoring something the Irish were known for - being welcoming - it's a special human quality and people need it."
Every Saturday morning in the months leading up to the parade, Fay, his co-chair Kathleen Walsh D'Arcy and their committee meet in Molly Blooms, an Irish bar in Sunnyside, to organize portable toilets and pipe bands.
"Puppets, too," says Dana Cotton, a laughing, dark-haired social worker. "Rescue puppets - there's a huge warehouse out in Brooklyn where they store these puppets so they're not destroyed, we go there with a truck, we get a bunch and distribute them to neighborhood kids who've come along to watch."
The parade is growing. Last year there was an estimated 2,000 people lining the route from Sunnyside to Woodside.
St. Pat's For All was founded many acrimonious years after the 1992 ban on gay people marching under a banner at the Fifth Avenue parade. The ban rumbles on - this year Taoiseach Enda Kenny will march while both the mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio (a long-time supporter of St Pat's For All) and the city council will not.
Members of Congress Caroline Maloney and Joseph Crowley, public advocate Letitia James, city comptroller Scott M Stringer and the city council will march in Queens.
Consul general Noel Kilkenny will represent the Irish Government and read a letter from President Michael D Higgins.
Reaching the Fifth Avenue parade committee is tricky. They are having a function to honor their grand marshal so I phone their office, ask if I can go. A voice replies: "Absolutely not."
I wonder if it's because I'm from Cork, but then I find out their grand marshal is too. Days later, a committee member replies to my emails, saying he'll be at an Irish-American soccer function, and will speak to me there. I get all dolled up, but he doesn't show. I pick at some mini-pizzas topped with what seems to be salad cream.
Not bad, but not a patch on the delicious dumplings whizzing around the 50th floor of a beautiful building in midtown Manhattan a couple of nights before.
The St. Pat's For All celebration of their two grand marshals, Tom Duane and Terry McGovern, is hosted at home by consul general Mr Kilkenny, his wife Hanora Kilkenny and a chubby black labrador whose name I didn't catch.
Duane, who looks like a clean-shaven Santa, and chuckles like him too, was elected to the State Senate in 1998 and became the Senate's first openly gay and first openly HIV-positive member.
Proud of his heritage, all four grandparents were Irish immigrants to America, Duane was arrested many times for protesting at the Fifth Avenue parade. He was among the first politicians to support Fay's parade.
"Now, they're all at it!" he says, a grin ruining the credibility of his attempted eye-roll.
The other grand marshal is Terry McGovern, a softly spoken human rights lawyer with copper-coloured hair. In a short, moving speech she honors her mother who was working at the World Trade Centre on September 11th. "She was the first one to introduce me to the concept of human rights, she had an amazing sense of humor and would have been so happy that I'm here tonight."
Malachy McCourt sings Will You Go, Lassie, Go and pretty much everyone joins in, then it's the turn of Brooklyn man Tony DeMarco. He could be an extra from The Sopranos, but he plays the fiddle like an angel, specifically, an angel from Sligo. He closes his eyes as the notes of the reel whirl and slip through the assembled crowd who whoop and tap as the city glitters beneath them.
Tomorrow at 2pm, St. Pat's for All will be back on Skillman Avenue, hoping for change but not waiting for it, trying to make good on their promise to cherish all the children of the nation equally, inviting everyone around them to join in.
For Immediate Release: Contact: Brendan Fay (718) 721-2780
March 01, 2014 Kathleen W. D'Arcy (718) 898-8140
Mayor Bill de Blasio expected for March 2nd Inclusive St. Pat's For All Parade
Grand Marshals Terry McGovern and Sen. Thomas Duane Honored for their Contributions to Human Rights
(NYC) Mayor Bill de Blasio is confirmed for the inclusive St. Pat's for All Parade on Sunday, March 2nd. Celebrations commence at 1 pm with music and remarks. Led by FDNY Emerald Society Pipes and Drums step off is at 2 pm and follows a route from 47th Street and Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside to 58th Street in Woodside.
Mayor de Blasio, who has marched in the St. Pat's for All Parade for many years, will be joined by Members of Congress Caroline Maloney and Joseph Crowley; Speaker of the New York City Council Melissa Mark-Viverito; Public Advocate for the City of New York Letitia James; New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer; New York City Council will march including Members Daniel Dromm, Rosie Mendez, Elizabeth Crowley, Corey Johnston, Costa Constantinides, and Jimmy Van Bramer and others. Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.
Consul General Noel Kilkenny will represent the Irish Government.
In a special message, President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins thanked St. Pat's for All for its unique, inclusive spirit, and for this year's theme of human rights. The parade will be honoring the 150th anniversary of Roger Casement (1864-1916), Irish nationalist and early human rights campaigner.
This year's parade will feature an appearance by Irish gay activist Rory O'Neill, also known as Panti Bliss. Bliss recently caught the world's ear with an impassioned speech on homophobia, gay pride and hope, which she delivered in early February at the Abbey Theatre, the National Theatre of Ireland. Panti will reprise her speech - which has received over a half million hits on YouTube - at the St. Pat's for All Concert at the New York Irish Arts Center .
St. Pat's for All Co-Chairs Brendan Fay and Kathleen Walsh D'Arcy said: 'Many thanks to Executive Director Aidan Connolly and the Irish Arts Center and George Heslin for bringing Panti Bliss to the 2014 St Pat's For All parade in New York City.
New York playwright Kathleen Warnock will lead the Team Panti in Sunday's parade.
Panti Bliss said: "I'm absolutely delighted to have the opportunity to take part in the wonderfully inclusive St Pat's For All parade in the diverse and welcoming borough of Queens in the great city of New York. This colorful and vibrant celebration really is for all - and I'm definitely one of the "all"!"
Fay said - Panti Bliss has inspired an international conversation on homophobia and hope. Even the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin responded. He said that "anybody who doesn't show love towards gay and lesbian people is insulting God. They are not just homophobic if they do that - they are actually Godphobic because God loves every one of those people."
Lawyer Terry M. McGovern and New York State Senator Thomas Duane have been chosen as this year's Grand Marshals for their sterling contributions to Human Rights. Ms. McGovern is perhaps best known as the founder of the HIV Law Project and on international human rights. Her mother Ann McGovern died on 9-11. Duane was the Senate's first openly gay and first openly HIV-positive member. Both Duane and McGovern have fought for medical, legal and economic justice for the city's LGBT community, the poor and people with AIDS.
Now in its 15th year, the St. Pat's For All Parade features a wide spectrum of civic organizations, immigrant communities, and LBGT groups. There will be bands, puppets, bagpipers, girl scouts, and stilt walkers. Groups will include: the Shannon Gaels Gaelic Football Club, the local Swim Strong Foundation, Irish Arts Center, Sober St Patrick’s Day organization, Irish American Writers and Artists, the Brehon Law Society, the Rosemary Nelson - Pat Finucane Memorial Group, the Irish language group - An Slua Nua, and many more.
Friars from the Episcopal Society of St. Francis will march as will the parishioners of St Francis Xavier in Greenwich Village and St Nicholas of Tolentine. Agha Saleh will lead the South Asian Group Sukhi New York. Parade banners designed by Ian hart and John Sigmund honor Roger Casement, Patrick Rice, Mother Jones and poet priest Dan Berrigan. Dignity NY the LGBT Catholic group will carry the banner of Fr. Mychal Judge, chaplain to the New York City Fire Department, who died on 9-11.
Co. Clare performer Brian Fleming brought Irish Union SIPTU's James Connolly banner for the parade as well as the banner of "The Spectacle of Defiance and Hope" movement in Dublin.
Gilbert Baker rainbow flag creator designed a banner for the parade - reading "HUMAN RIGHTS - YES!"
Co-Chair Brendan Fay said : "Hospitality is at the heart of St Pats For All. We extend the warm hand of welcome to the diverse immigrant and LGBT communities of New York. The Irish story brings us together. Reflecting the best of the New York spirit and of modern Ireland we're delighted that groups excluded from parades in Boston and Staten Island are making their way to Sunnyside."
Co-Chair Kathleen Walsh D'Arcy said: "A theme of St. Pat's For All is 'Cherishing all the children of the nation equally,' which is taken from the Irish Proclamation of 1916. We are thrilled to have many youth groups and school bands from the local community including Shannon Gaels Gaelic Sports and Music groups and the Swim Strong Foundation.
"I marched on Fifth Ave. from the age of 6 in my McNiff dancing costume. In '92 I stopped marching when friends were excluded and human rights became the issue. I believe that St. Pat's For All is the best celebration of Irish America."
Groups can still register at
Parade begins 47st St. & Skillman Ave at 1pm, Sunday March 2
De Blasio chooses Sunnyside to march in St. Pat's Parade
February 27, 2014
By Bill Parry
Mayor Bill de Blasio will be joined by most, if not all, of the City Council in the 15th Annual St. Pat's for All Parade in Sunnyside Sunday.
De Blasio confirmed with organizers of the inclusive alternative parade Tuesday, the same day that Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan) announced the Council's boycott of the Fifth Avenue St. Patrick's Day Parade citing the traditional parade’s exclusion of openly gay participants.
"This City Council is committed to celebrating and respecting the diversity of New York City and that is why we've decided to not participate in the parade," Mark-Viverito said in a statement.
While individual Council members can still participate in the Manhattan march, they are all expected to join the rest of the city's leadership in Sunnyside.
"They'll all be here at the St. Pat's for All Parade," Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) said. "And why wouldn't they rather be here. Having been a founder of the parade, I can tell you it encompasses the true meaning of the day, that everyone can be Irish on St. Patrick's Day. It's a true representation of Queens, the borough of nations."
The parade kicks off at 1 p.m. at 47th Street and Skillman Avenue and continue to 58th Street in Woodside. This year more than a hundred organizations will march, featuring a wide spectrum of LGBT groups, immigrant communities and civic groups.
Last year, the FDNY Emerald Society Pipes & Drums marched on Skillman for the first time and this year they return with a larger contingent to lead the parade.
"I'm very heartened and proud that this is all happening in Sunnyside," Co-Chairman Brendan Fay said. The parade's other co-chair, Katherine Walsh D'Arcy, said, "I'm so thrilled with the way it's grown and the way the neighborhood has accepted us."
Walsh D'Arcy mentioned several business groups that have promoted the parade and singled out one, Saints & Sinners, a restaurant at 59-21 Roosevelt Ave. "They've hosted our after-party all 15 years and in the early days it was tough on them. Woodside wasn't as accepting as they are now," she said.
On Saturday, an even bigger parade takes place in Rockaway. The 39th Annual Queens County St. Patrick's Day Parade gets underway at 1 p.m. at Beach 130th Street and the route finishes at 101st Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard.
This march has drawn more than 50,000 spectators in the past but is still coming back from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.
"It's our second parade since the storm and it's a great way for the community to be together after a tough winter," organizer Michael Benn said. "We've got 23 bands this year from all over the tri-state. Mother Nature was hard on us this winter, but if we could get over Sandy, we can get over the winter."
Panti, Irish Celebrity Drag Queen, for Queen's Patrick's Day March
February 26, 2014
By Cahir O'Doherty
IrishCentral can exclusively reveal that Pandora Panti Bliss, the Irish celebrity drag queen more commonly known as Panti, will march in the all-inclusive St. Pat's for All parade in Sunnyside/Woodside Queens on Sunday, March 2.
Panti, whose recent speech at the Abbey Theater in Dublin (see below) became an Internet sensation that caught the eye of celebrities like Madonna and tennis star Martina Navratilova, will participate at the invitation of the Queens St. Pat's for All parade committee which is co-chaired by Irish community activists Brendan Fay and Kathleen Walsh D'Arcy.
Arriving in New York on Friday, February 28, Panti is scheduled to participate in the annual St. Pat's For All Fundraiser event at the Irish Arts Center in Hell's Kitchen. Doors open at 6 p.m., with a 7 p.m. showtime. It is understood she will reprise the "Noble Call" speech she gave at the Abbey.
Rory O'Neill, the 45-year-old performer behind Panti, will be welcomed at City Hall a day after the Queens parade at the invitation of Irish American City Council Member Danny Dromm. Details of the invite were being worked on as the Irish Voice went to press on Tuesday.
Panti first made international headlines after an interview he gave on RTE One's Saturday Night Show to host Brendan O'Connor was accused of being defamatory.
O'Neill reportedly received a series of solicitors letters from Irish Times columnist Breda O'Brien, as well as from David Quinn, Patricia Casey, and John Murray, all of the conservative Catholic organization the Iona Institute.
Although the religiously inspired organization has a long history of taking anti-gay stances, the four members objected to the suggestion that their organization and they themselves could be motivated by homophobia.
But instead of silencing O'Neill, who owns the popular bar and nightspot Pantibar in Dublin, the legal actions resulted in a massive international debate about gay rights and religious organizations that work to prevent their legal equality. Panti's Abbey speech received over one million views and within three days and was translated into every major European language, as well as Chinese and Japanese.
The St. Pat's for All parade assembles at 1 p.m. on March 2 at Skillman Avenue and 47th Street in Sunnyside, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will be in attendance. The parade steps off at 2 p.m.
Here's a video of Panti's "Noble Call" speech at the Abbey Theatre, in Dublin.
Fifth Avenue parade standoff can be ended says LGBT Irish leader
February 20, 2014
By Cahir O'Doherty
Irish LGBT rights activist and documentary filmmaker Brendan Fay, organizer of the all-inclusive St. Pat's For All parade in Queens, sees a new path toward a solution to the parade marching issue.
Fay, 55, a longtime Irish community activist, says a solution could be achieved with goodwill on both sides.
Fay has met and corresponded with Parade Chairman John Donleavy in the past and the relationship has been described as friendly.
"The first step in the search for a resolution is for the parties to sit down with one another," he tells IrishCentral. "I think the time has come. We at Lavender and Green and St. Pat's For All would ask that we be treated no different than any other group in the parade."
The second step, Fay says, is that the groups should march under their banner. Fay points out this his group don't have the word gay on their banner and never have. "Lavender and Green Alliance: Muinteoir Aerach na hEireann", it reads.
"I have been surprised by the kinds of people who have been asking "do you have a banner that doesn't have the word ‘gay’ in it?" Fay confides. "As it happens it doesn't have the word gay in it. But even asking that question implies there's something wrong with the word and by extension the orientation. That points to a deeper issue. People are having conversations about us without us. That needs to end."
The third step is to remember that until the parade steps off there is always an opportunity for leadership, for dialogue and resolution until the whistle goes. "I think if people are determined to put this behind us we can. The Parade Committee already welcomes many Irish groups with their banners and we would like them to do likewise."
Respect, dialogue and a willingness to address the issue will see real progress, Fay says. An Irish community forum on the issue is also something he would welcome. "The ban doesn't just reflect on the Parade Committee, it's a reflection on all of us in the Irish community," Fay says.
"Dialogue is the only way forward. We've learned from the North it's the only thing that can help. We've been sending a message from Fifth Avenue each year for decades that says "we're Ireland of the un-welcomes." That has to end."
Fay, who holds a BA in Theology and Sociology from St. Patrick's College, Maynooth and an MA in Theology from St. John's here in New York, first came to the US in 1984, one more secretly gay young Irish man seeking temporary parole from the insular and conservative nation he'd grown up in.
At the time he had intended to stay for two years but the city worked its magic. After graduation he took a job teaching religion at the Mary Louise Academy, a Catholic girls high school in Jamaica, Queens. There he began to seriously contemplate staying on in America.
At night Fay explored the city's many Irish bars and - more furtively - its many gay clubs, all the while keeping his orientation a closely guarded secret. But all the years of hiding had taken a toll. Drinking helped him cope with his secret but it was also making everything worse.
It was coming out that saved him, he says. "In Ireland we were still criminals," he tells IrishCentral. "The impact of that is a story yet to be told. The furtiveness, the hiding. It had a debilitating impact."
First his involvement with gay rights organizations like the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization (ILGO) helped him begin to live openly as a gay Irish man, then his budding activism on Irish gay issues helped him to recognize how closely his college training could complement his experience. When he stopped hiding, he also stopped drinking.
Newly energized by his decision to live as an openly gay man, Fay proudly marched in the Fifth Avenue Saint Patrick's Day Parade in the only year that Irish gay groups were ever permitted to in 1991. Video footage on the day displays the mixed reaction from the crowds which ranged from delighted applause to hurled beer cans and hateful epithets, capturing the moment when the mayor and other elected officials who marched with the Irish gay groups were booed for forty blocks.
"It was like marching in Birmingham, Alabama during the civil rights movement," Mayor Dinkins told The New York Times afterward. "I knew there would be deep emotions, but I did not anticipate the cowards in the crowd. There was far, far too much negative comment," he said.
Fay remembers it differently, "Most people remember the jeers but I remember the cheers," he told the Huffington Post in 2010. "It changed my life because it allowed me to come out in a very public way and to unite the three significant parts of my life, Irish, Catholic and gay."
Fay was born in Athy, County Kildare in 1958. The family - five girls and two boys - moved to Drogheda when Fay was 10. His father worked in an asbestos factory and at the age of eight Fay found his first job packing spuds at the local grocery. Silver spoons were not in evidence.
In his spare time Fay liked to hang out with the nuns at the local convent. The Sisters of Mercy had a hugely positive impact on his life, he says. But as a teenager and young adult the authority figures he confided in - mainly priests - about his sexuality saw it as a thing to be overcome or changed. No one ever suggested that he embrace it. Leaving Ireland eventually became part of a longer journey to divest himself of its damaging example.
But standing up for himself on Fifth Avenue had immediate and far reaching consequences. After he marched in the 1991 parade Fay was quickly dismissed from his teaching job. Instead of reacting to the firing he responded to it. He delved further into his LGBT activism and heralded the work of Irish leaders who took a principled stand on LGBT issues.
One year after the 1991 parade debacle Irish LGBT groups found themselves totally banned from participating when the National AOH directed all AOH organizations to form separate corporations to run events such as the Parade. The parade is still run today by members of the AOH under a separate corporation, St Patrick's Day Parade Inc. The ban on Irish LGBT groups participating under their own banner has endured for over two decades.
In response to the ban, and to intemperate interviews with parade committee members in the Irish Voice who at various times compared gay Irish people to Neo Nazi's and the Klu Klux Klann, in 2000 Fay co-created the all-inclusive St. Pat's For All Parade in Queens, which echoes the words of the Irish Proclamation (which in turn echo the Declaration of Independence) that all Irish citizens are born equal. The challenge to individual consciences of the New York parade committee was laid bare.
Flash forward to 2014 and Fay's group Lavender and Green may not be quite as prominent as the Irish Queers organization when it comes to the annual debate, but both will have to be a part of the discussion to find a solution.
US Patrick's Day marches out of step with Ireland
LGBT bans in New York and Boston reflect a conservatism that lags behind the homeland
February 15, 2014
By Simon Carswell
The decisions by the New York City and Boston mayors to boycott St Patrick's Day parades over the exclusion of gay, lesbian and transgender groups raises questions about whether Irish-American groups are out of step with the progressive changes in Irish society and beyond.
Calls for inclusion extend beyond these groups too. Last year, Irish Ambassador to the US Anne Anderson asked the oldest Irish-American group, the Friendly Sons of St Patrick, to consider changing its name to the "Friendly Sons and Daughters of St Patrick" to be more inclusive.
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore skipped a visit to Savannah, Georgia, home to the largest and oldest St Patrick's Day celebrations in the American south, on a trip to the region last year because it would have involved attending a men-only dinner hosted by the Hibernian Society of Savannah.
This year Taoiseach Enda Kenny is juggling with awkward local politics in Irish America on his annual St Patrick's Day visit. He is visiting two cities where mayors have taken stands against the exclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups. Kenny has said he will participate in Manhattan's Fifth Avenue parade, the biggest in the city, which mayor Bill de Blasio is boycotting.
Gilmore has said the Government should be represented at the Manhattan parade, which is attended by more than a million people, but said the rules should be changed.
Boston's newly elected mayor Marty Walsh, the son of Connemara immigrants, is taking over where predecessor Tom Menino left off and is refusing to attend the South Boston parade if the organizers won't allow gays and lesbians to march. Kenny will be in Boston on March 16th, the day of the parade, and Walsh hopes to broker a compromise.
"I'm working on it . . . I hope [to reach a deal]," he told the Boston Herald this week. "In 2014, it's time for the parade to be an inclusive parade. And it's something that I'm working with. I've had some conversations early on and they have been very good conversations."
Gulf between factions:
Tensions between LGBT groups and organizers of the parades may not be as high as in the 1990s when there were arrests and legal challenges over the exclusion of gay pride groups, but the gulf between the factions is still as wide.
Brendan Fay, from Drogheda, founded the St Pat's For All parade in Sunnyside, Queens, in 2000. It includes LGBT groups and de Blasio has attended in the past. He believes the Fifth Avenue parade "sends out the message of Ireland of the Unwelcomes" and is not reflective of Ireland and Irish America today.
"It would be a distortion to easily stereotype Irish America or what we are seeing happening back home," said Fay. "We certainly need our parades and our cultural events to reflect more the shift that we are experiencing in Ireland and Irish America."
Bill Donohue, president of the New York-based Catholic League and an Irish citizen, says LGBT groups want to "impose their own identity" on the parade. He notes anti-abortion advocates are also welcome to march, but they are not allowed to carry anti-abortion signs: "It is not about barring gays - it is about barring any contingent, group, banner or sign that brings attention to any cause other than what is being celebrated on the day."
Kathleen Walsh D'Arcy marched in the Fifth Avenue parade every year as a girl, sometimes in her Irish dancing costume, but has not participated for many years because of the exclusion of gay groups. She challenges the assumption it is a religious parade, saying it is an Irish cultural and political parade that gives Irish Americans a chance to celebrate the history and culture of the diaspora.
St Patrick vs modern Ireland:
"St Patrick's Day parades all over the USA are not 'celebrating Ireland'," said Walsh D’Arcy, a co-chair of the St Pat's For All parade. "They are about celebrating Irish America. That is a very different concept. Like other ethnic groups, they want to remember their roots as immigrants. But most will never visit Ireland."
Irish Americans don't know the Republic is "a much more progressive country than the US," she said.
Fay hopes the Taoiseach can engage in dialogue with the Manhattan parade organizers to negotiate a resolution so LGBT groups can march with him on Fifth Avenue: "Irish Americans easily hop on planes and negotiate in Belfast and other places to work on negotiating resolutions of conflict, yet we have one right here on our own doorstep on Fifth Avenue that we have failed to address and resolve."
Claim NY Mayor "does not want to be associated with Irish Catholics"
February 05, 2014
By Cahir O'Doherty
Newly elected New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's decision not to march in the New York St. Patrick's Parade on March 17 has met with mixed reaction in Irish circles. A gay Irish leader has praised the decision, but others have disagreed with it.
De Blasio told a press conference on Tuesday that he will not march in the St. Patrick's Day Parade on Fifth Avenue this March 17 because it excludes gay groups from marching. This marks the first time in 20 years that a mayor of New York has refused to march in the annual event on Fifth Avenue, one of the biggest parades in the world.
"I am not planning on marching in the parade," the mayor said. "I haven't in the past in my capacity as an elected official. I will be participating in a number of other events to honor the Irish heritage of this city and the contributions of Irish Americans. But I simply disagree with the organizers of that parade in their exclusion of some individuals in this city."
The mayor was commenting on the parade's decades-old ban preventing Irish LGBT organizations from marching under their own banners in the annual parade.
Although he is personally refusing to march in the Fifth Avenue parade, de Blasio has denied a plea from gay rights groups to ban city workers from wearing their uniforms at the parade. The request was made by LGBT rights groups and elected officials, including two City Council members and Letitia James, the new public advocate, who penned an open letter with fellow supporters to de Blasio this week in the Gay City News.
"The presence of uniformed police and firefighters in such a procession sends a clear signal to LGBTQ New Yorkers that these personnel, who are charged with serving and protecting all New Yorkers, do not respect the lives or safety of LGBT people," they wrote.
"We are asking you to direct all city departments not to organize marchers for or allow personnel to participate in this anti-LGBTQ procession either in uniform or with any banner that identifies them with the city."
But de Blasio will not take that step. "I believe that uniformed city workers have the right to participate if they choose to, and I respect that right," he said. "I respect the right of our city workers to march in uniform - period."
Conservative activist Bill Donohue of the Catholic League told the Irish Voice he was delighted to hear the mayor would not participate in the main parade.
"This is the first time in New York City history that its mayor has decided to boycott the St. Patrick's Day parade. Personally, I am delighted," Donohue said.
"I lead the Catholic League contingent every year, and I do not want to march with a public official who does not want to be associated with Irish Catholics."
"I've had it with this guy," Donohue continued. "He has a nominating committee and he brings in an imam, a rabbi, two ministers and no priests. Catholics are 52 percent of the New York City population and this guy believes in diversity and he sticks it to us?"
"And now he says he doesn't want to march in the St. Patrick's Day Parade? He can do like the others do. If you feel some sympathy to homosexuals go march in Queens."
Asked if it was correct to believe that Irish gay rights groups would not be welcome to march in the New York City parade now or in the future under their own banners Donohue replied, "Yes. Now, if they want to blend in they can join in with the Catholic League. I don't go around asking, it's none of my business what people do in bed."
Donohue concluded that the participation of gay Irish groups could potentially lead to conflict.
"The mayor says he won't accede to the request by gay activists to ban city workers from marching. So kind of him - otherwise he would be looking at an insurrection," Donohue said.
New York physician Dr. Kevin Cahill, who led the New York City parade as grand marshal in 2000, told the Irish Voice on Tuesday that he regretted de Blasio's decision.
"In this era of Pope Francis and the success of the Irish peace process we see the extraordinary impact that dialogue can bring about. We clearly need it very badly in this instance," Cahill said. "Absenting himself is not a solution."
Brendan Fay, longtime community activist and the co-organizer of the inclusive St. Pat's For All Parade in Queens however praised de Blasio's stance.
"Today Mayor de Blasio took this issue a historic step further in stating that as mayor he would not be marching on Fifth Avenue because of its clear policy of discrimination against LGBT Irish groups," Fay told the Irish Voice.
"Throughout Ireland and the U.S. there are a growing number of St. Patrick's parades that don't discriminate. In Seattle, Buffalo and Fort Lauderdale and in Dublin, Cork and Galway the parades include LGBT groups. In fact a gay group won the best float in the parade in Dublin."
Fay said he has not yet heard from de Blasio's office about his participation in the annual inclusive St. Pat's For All parade that will be held in Sunnyside and Woodside in Queens on Sunday, March 2.
Fay feels that the only real surprise about the latest developments in the longstanding parade feud is how long it has endured.
"I never thought that 15 years after we organized our first inclusive St. Patrick's Day parade that we'd still be dealing with this standoff," said Fay.
"The Fifth Avenue parade is the biggest, most historic and prestigious Irish celebration in the world. And here is the mayor of our city saying he will not attend it because of its policy of discrimination. It's an embarrassment for the Irish community in New York City.
"This story goes out across the world. This is not who we are. What are we going to do about it?"
De Blasio Won't March in St. Patrick's Day Parade
February 04, 2014
By Colby Hamilton
The luck of the Irish appears to have run out.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday that he's not planning on attending this year's St. Patrick's Day parade, an annual rite for elected officials in the city.
"I am not planning on marching in the parade. I haven't in the past in my capacity as an elected official," de Blasio said during an unrelated press conference at City Hall. "I simply disagree with the organizers of that parade in their exclusion of some individuals in this city."
De Blasio referred to the standing policy of the parade organizers that bars LGBTQ parade participants from openly identifying themselves as gay. Every mayor in modern memory, from Koch to Bloomberg, has participated in the parade.
According to the organizers' website, the New York City St. Patrick's Day parade has been happening for more than 250 years and claims to be the largest in the world.
The mayor said he was planning on participating in other St. Patrick's-related events, though he provided no details. In the past, de Blasio attended a counterpart to the larger St. Patrick's Day parade, the St. Pat's for All parade in Queens, which promotes its inclusion of the LGBTQ community.
Brendan Fay, the founder and co-chair of the St. Pat's for All parade, praised de Blasio's decision, calling it historic and significant.
"Exclusion and discrimination is wrong, period - whether on the streets of Belfast or the streets of New York," Fay said in a statement. "Our cultural parades need to become more welcoming."
Though he won't be attending, de Blasio said uniformed city employees had the right to march in the parade.
Calls to the St. Patrick's Day parade organizers for comment were not returned.
St. Patrick's Day: Celebrating Heritage AND Inclusion
March 15, 2013
By fenway49 for Shamrock American Kossacks
So here we are again approaching St. Patrick's Day, that time of year when I find myself filled with ancestral pride. And also with burning fury at the little cabals of conservatives who believe it their place to determine what is legitimately "Irish" in America and what is not. This is the story of what St. Patrick's Day used to mean for me, what it came to mean later, and what it means today.
My childhood was similar to that of many Irish-American kids in the northeastern United States in the 1980s. Twelve-plus years of Catholic schools, eight years as an altar boy, all that. I knew plenty of non-Irish people growing up, but in this area, in that Catholic school, a fair number of the people I knew were of Irish descent like me.
The two rival cities I've alternately called home for most of my life, Boston and New York (so similar and yet so different) are among the most Irish of places in America. Plenty of fourth- and fifth-generation Irish-Americans who keep the faith, at least every March. And plenty of people straight from Ireland. In Boston one needn't go far to find Irish delicacies like Crunchie bars or McVitie's digestives, or pubs serving traditional Irish dishes involving gobs of curry.
I grew up immersed in the northeastern U.S. version of Irish-ness, a culture neither of Ireland nor of the poor unfortunate un-hyphenated Americans for whom McDonald's would be an Irish restaurant. In Ireland "Irish-ness" can be taken for granted. Not so here, where Irish immigrants banded together in the face of discrimination, and their children had to work hard to maintain an identity in an increasingly multi-cultural society. Boston and New York, if not pure melting pots, are a patchwork quilt with colors that run. But in our way we did maintain that identity. I knew we weren't exactly like the people in Ireland - a century or two of living on a different continent will do that - but I never felt just "plain old American" either.
These same cities today have large Puerto Rican populations. My wife, born and raised on the island, didn't understand at first why Puerto Ricans in New York felt the need to proclaim their Boricua-tude to the world so flamboyantly. I understood their sense of alienation. The same feeling made Irish-ness perhaps more important in places like Boston or New York than in Ireland. Indeed, the first St. Patrick's Day Parade actually was held in Boston in 1737, with the New York parade dating to 1762.
When I was a child we had always, in the background, certain music, certain foods, certain traditions. Both of my grandfathers had a photo of the martyred President Kennedy hanging in the house, though Bobby was my mother's favorite. My mother's father, in Brooklyn, told us often about Al Smith. "He would have been president long before Kennedy," my grandfather would say, "but they wouldn’t let him then just because he was Irish and Catholic." We had the twice-a-year phone call to the ever-more-distant cousins back in Ireland. The aunt who was detained by the British police in the early 80s after meeting Bernadette Devlin in Belfast. Her older sister, living in England at the time, was referred to by my grandfather as "the Limey daughter." He was only half-joking.
At my mother's insistence there were step dance classes. Hop threes and the like agreed to only because my mother insisted they'd make us better at hockey, which was news to the hockey coach. When I read Frank McCourt's account of skipping out on the classes and then inventing dances (the "Walls o' Cork") when his parents inquired, I laughed out loud. The apex of this Irish-American-ness was the St. Patrick's Day, which as I was growing up was largely the same, year after year. My mother made us recite "St. Patrick’s Breastplate" before breakfast. "Christ on my right, Christ on my left.." I remember seeing only my brother and sister to my right and left and thinking "anti-Christ" would be more appropriate. Oatmeal with Irish bacon became our traditional St. Patrick’s Day breakfast, with the black and white puddings. My mother said my grandfather ate that for breakfast when he was a kid, because things were so much better for them here in the States they could afford to buy the bacon regularly, and so they did. I don’t know if that's true; I'd heard immigrants who had bacon back in Ireland couldn't find it or afford it here, hence the corned beef craze.
In school everyone had something green on. Actually, our Catholic school uniforms were green to begin with, but everyone had some additional green on. And all the teachers were in green. Even my Ukrainian grandmother, often exasperated that her own culture was lost in this Irish Sea, wore green on St. Patrick's Day. Evening brought a large family gathering, with music playing, usually instrumental reels. Dinner was a medley of shepherd's pie, that Irish-American staple corned beef and cabbage (I still don't like cabbage much), boiled potatoes. Dessert almost always was apple cake and shortbread. Before the night was through my grandfather would be uncharacteristically emotional as he preached on to sleepy children about guys named Emmet and O'Connell.
The lowlight of the week would be the recital, when we'd have to crowd with twenty other kids onto a small stage in a dingy hall to prove how little we'd mastered the dance steps. Back then we mostly had names like Mike, Timmy, Jenny, Maureen and Jack. Ciarans and Niamhs were to be found mostly in Ireland.
The highlight of the week was the parades, both the neighborhood one and the big one in the city. In New York the big parade is held on March 17 itself; in Boston it always takes place on the weekend. As the schedule permitted, in either city we'd ride the train and stand along the route. The marchers! The music, bagpipes and all that! ("Who cares if the song's called 'Scotland the Brave'?") Miss Mulcahy's School of Irish Dance. The Boston Police Gaelic Column. I loved the crowds, the pageantry, and the sense that all of this was to celebrate us. Our past, our survival, our triumph. Who wouldn't love it?
I help my cousin celebrate his first St. Patrick's Day in 1990. He'll be 24 in a few weeks. In 1993, when I was a senior in high school, things changed dramatically. On February 26 of that year, with my parents' bemused blessing, I cut school with a couple of friends. I was living in New Jersey in those years and one of my friends, who made money on the side setting up computer systems, had a gig at the World Trade Center that Friday morning. We took the train into the city early and the rest of us went up to the observation deck while he did his thing. He finished early and by about 10 AM we were heading uptown on the subway to spend the rest of the day in the Village. Hours passed before we learned that the Trade Center had been hit by a car bomb shortly after noon and our families were panicked worrying about us. Eight and a half years later, I would stand on the corner of Sixth Avenue and Carmine and watch an airplane crash into the same tower where my friend did his work on that morning in 1993. Our jittery families, whom we'd called as soon as we learned of the attacks, asked us to come home right away. We hopped in a yellow cab and I heard a radio report that would forever alter my relationship to St. Patrick's Day, though I didn't yet know it. 1010 WINS news radio told us that Judge Kevin Thomas Duffy, of U.S. District Court in Manhattan, had issued an order compelling Mayor David Dinkins, then in his last year of running New York City, to grant the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) a permit for the parade even though the AOH refused to allow a group of gay and lesbian New Yorkers of Irish ancestry to march under their own banner.
At the time the issues of the GLBT community were not specifically on my radar. As I was growing up, "gay" and related (less nice) words often were used as insults by boys trying to prove how macho they were. I’d spent a good amount of time in the Village and my NYU-grad aunt had told me about Stonewall. I've always abhorred discrimination and intolerance of any kind, so my initial reaction was that the AOH should let the group march. When I got home I mentioned it in passing to my dad, who said he agreed. That night, at a close friend's 18th birthday party, I mentioned it again. The views expressed varied, but there was no extended discussion.
That year I did not attend the Fifth Avenue parade; it was held on a Wednesday when I had school. Some months later - after graduation - the friend at whose birthday party I'd raised the issue told me that he is gay. He had not shared this with any of our other friends, and chose to tell me only because I'd expressed an opposition to discrimination by the AOH. Our conversation made me look into the issue more closely, and the more I learned the madder I became.
My awakening came at a time when, in each of "my" cities, the issue of inclusiveness in the St. Patrick's Day Parade was highly controversial and litigious. Here is a brief rundown:
New York City The large St. Patrick's Day Parade on Fifth Avenue was for many years organized by the AOH. I learned that the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization (ILGO) had requested late in 1990 to march in the 1991 parade under its own banner. That request was refused by the AOH, who allowed ILGO members to march in 1991, with no banner, as "guests" of various AOH divisions. In 1992 the issue arose again and ILGO again was rejected, but allowed to hold its own demonstration on a six-block stretch of the parade route before the parade.
In late 1992 the New York City Human Rights Commission ruled that the AOH's exclusionary policy violated city law. The AOH sought review in state court, and while that case was pending the city granted a parade license not to the AOH, but to a different group that had agreed not to exclude IGLO. The state judge therefore dismissed AOH's claim as moot.
The AOH then filed suit in federal court, alleging that its First Amendment right to control the "message" of its parade was being infringed by the city's failure to grant it a permit. The case was assigned to Judge Kevin Thomas Duffy (no conflict of interest there), who agreed. Since that time the Fifth Avenue parade (no longer officially organized by the AOH) has refused to allow Irish gay and lesbian groups to march under their own banner. And since that time I have refused to attend the Fifth Avenue parade, which at one time was one of my favorite things in the world. Virtually each year there are civil disobedience arrests in protest against this ongoing discrimination.
Boston For many years the main St. Patrick's Day parade in Boston, held in South Boston, was administered by the city as a joint celebration of St. Patrick's Day and Evacuation Day. Evacuation Day is a state holiday because, on March 17, 1776 the British Army under General Howe, following a months-long siege by Washington's Continental Army, finally gave up and fled Boston, never to return. Decades later, Irish immigrants arriving in Boston took pride in that coincidence.
In 1947, that rascally mayor James Michael Curley, realizing that his generation would face serious political challenge from young World War II veterans, offered control of the parade to the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council (the "Council"), an unincorporated federation of veterans' groups. The Council has run the parade ever since.
In 1992 the Irish-American Gay, Lesbian & Bi-Sexual Group of Boston ("GLIB") sought to march in the parade under its own banner. The Council, run by John J. "Wacko" Hurley, said no. A state court ordered the Council to let GLIB march, citing state law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in "public accommodations." Thus did GLIB march in the 1992 parade, uneventfully except for the requisite throwing of beer cans and nonstop heckling by the kinder citizens of South Boston.
In 1993, the year I became aware of the New York controversy, GLIB again sought to march in South Boston. Despite the 1992 court order, Wacko Hurley and the Council said no. Again GLIB went to court and won. Again GLIB marched, with snowballs and saliva joining the beer cans and smoke bombs of 1992 on the projectile list, and police sharpshooters on rooftops just in case things escalated.
In 1994 the process repeated itself. Wacko Hurley said no, GLIB went to state court and again won in the trial court.That decision was affirmed by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), the highest court in the state. This time, though, GLIB did not march. Why? Because Wacko Hurley and his council simply cancelled the 1994 parade rather than allow GLIB to march again. said Hurley. "They're not going to shove something down our face that's not our traditional values. We'll go on until we have a parade of a family nature."
A side note: in 1994 the 39-year-old President of Local 7, Ironworkers, in South Boston decided to challenge the neighborhood's incumbent State Representative in a primary. His main reason: said State Rep had failed to support Wacko Hurley's discrimination with throat sufficiently full. Running as the candidate of "our values," he stormed to victory. He then spent the next few years in the state legislature, voting against GLBT causes every chance he got. In 2001 the area's longtime Congressman died in office and this fellow, now a State Senator, won a multi-candidate primary by crusading as the "conservative candidate." Again he won. His name: Stephen F. Lynch. In 2009 he took to the U.S. House floor in praise of the bigot Wacko Hurley. And now he is asking for our votes, in a Democratic primary against Rep. Ed Markey, to join Elizabeth Warren in the United States Senate. Of course, running statewide in 2013, he's totally for gay marriage but won't repudiate the parade and continues to participate. One word: never.
Another side note. In late 2003 the same Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court that ruled in GLIB's favor also ruled that Massachusetts could not deny same-sex couples a civil marriage license, making my state the first in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage. The following March then-Governor Mitt Romney appeared at the traditional St. Patrick's Day breakfast in Steve Lynch's old union hall. This event is Boston's answer to the Al Smith Dinner. Politicos of most stripes appear and engage in (mostly bad) comedy or musical routines. (Last year Elizabeth Warren, poking fun at Scott Brown's past as a centerfold model, unveiled a large photo of herself, wearing a suit, sprawled atop two filing cabinets as the "centerfold" for Consumer Reports.) In 2004, Romney opened his routine with a joke about same-sex marriage: "There's nothing wrong with our supreme court in Massachusetts that having Wacko Hurley as chief justice wouldn't cure!" So yeah, the same gratuitous nastiness for which Romney is well known.
Having cancelled his 1994 parade, Wacko Hurley appealed to the United States Supreme Court, which in 1995 ruled unanimously (Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston, Inc., 515 U.S. 557 (1995)) that he and his group have a First Amendment right to promote their message of intolerance as they see fit. And, each year since, they have, though they're fine with stormtroopers and such. And, each year since, I've refused to attend the South Boston St. Patrick's Day parade as well. To his credit, so has Boston's Mayor-for-Life, Thomas Menino. Both of us were fortunate to miss this guy.
It should be noted that Wacko Hurley's reactionary politics extend beyond excluding gay people. In March 2003, as the Bushies were preparing for war in Iraq, a group called South Boston Veterans for Peace applied to march in the parade. Their request was summarily denied. Hurley told a member of the Veterans for Peace, John Redue of Somerville, that the group did not have an "appropriate message" for his parade. Redue, who spent nine years in the Air Force, said he was "more shocked than anything else. People apparently don't think you can be for peace and support the troops at the same time. I think questioning policies . . . is the duty of patriots."
What makes this particularly interesting is that the South Boston Veterans for Peace chapter is run by Anthony Flaherty. He and Wacko Hurley served in the Navy together in the 1950s. Hurley was Tony Flaherty's best man and godfather to his first child. But Hurley, the self-proclaimed Mr. Veteran, left the Navy. Flaherty stayed in, for 25 years. He served in combat in Vietnam. What he saw there affected him greatly, and prompted him to reject the idea of going to war on false pretenses. Surely his old, dear friend would listen to his thoughts. Not so much. Flaherty told the Boston Globe that his old friend Wacko called him a "commie." Said Flaherty: "No veteran who has seen action would deny a fellow veteran, a buddy, respect and the right to march. I have seen young men die. . . . I'm a retired naval officer and a combat vet, and I daresay I have more legitimacy than those who are denying us the right."
Apparently Wacko Hurley and his crew think they are entitled to speak not only for all Irish-Americans in Boston, but for all veterans as well. My father is of Irish descent. He served in Vietnam, but opposed Iraq. He is not one of those who spent a year as an Army cook and the rest of his life proclaiming his veteran status with caps and bumper stickers. He's never joined any veterans group at all. At my request he sent a strong letter to Wacko Hurley back in 2003. I'm sure we'll get an answer any day now.
These guys, in denying the right of gay organizations to participate in their parade, hid behind the Catholic Church's condemnation of homosexuality. Funny how they likewise rejected the Veterans for Peace in 2003 and every year since, despite the fact that Pope John Paul II had condemned George Bush's Iraq War in unequivocal terms. Catholicism when convenient.
Wacko Hurley himself is retired from parade organizing these days, but nothing's changed over there. The Supreme Court gave his crowd the right to control "their message" in the parade. For twenty years their message is that they’re anti-gay and pro-war. My message to them is: Pog mo thoin!
So how do I celebrate St. Patrick's Day now? The same way I always did, minus the discriminatory parades. Mostly at home. Breakfast with oatmeal and Irish bacon. And St. Patrick's Breastplate, more in memory of my since-departed mother than out of any theological conviction. Dinner with shepherd's pie and apple cake. The same music. To my wife's delight I do a half-assed rendition of the hop threes I never could master. And I generally invite to dinner the same friend whose brave revelation helped me understand how unacceptable the parades' exclusionary policies really are - and his partner.
If I'm craving a parade, there are acceptable alternatives. When I lived in New York the best option was St. Patrick's Day for All, founded by one-time ILGO member Brendan Fay in response to the discriminatory atmosphere on Fifth Avenue. Today it's quite a large event attended by politicians like Mayor Bloomberg and the openly lesbian president of the City Council, Christine Quinn.
Held in the longtime Irish enclaves of Sunnyside and Woodside in Queens, St. Pat's for All is a festive celebration of inclusion. The parade’s motto, "Cherishing all the children of the nation equally," is taken directly from the 1916 Easter Proclamation of the Irish Republic. As befits Queens, the most diverse county in America, the parade celebrates not only Irish heritage but multiculturalism. Children of all backgrounds perform Irish dance, but the parade also features groups from the local Caribbean, Latino, Native American, and Korean communities, and gay and lesbian groups, all free to "march under their own banner." The event's simple, yet beautiful, philosophy is "we err on the side of hospitality."
Here in Boston Tony Flaherty, now 81, continues to fight for his Veterans for Peace to march in the Southie parade. Each year, in a letter one sentence long, the application is denied. For the past couple of years, the city has granted the Veterans for Peace a permit to hold a second parade, along the same South Boston route, after the War Veterans Council parade ends. (Bastards to the end, the Allied War Veterans Council, on its website, continues to call its discrimination-fest the "one and only South Boston St. Patrick's Day Parade.") In 2011 my wife and I attended the alternative parade, which included antiwar activists, economic justice activists, environmental activists, and GLBT groups. I admired the marchers' dedication to principle but it was a forlorn affair, the overwhelming majority of the crowd having departed (thanks in no small part to city street sweepers swooping in before they marched). At least they didn't stay to hurl abuse.
Last year my wife and I headed over to Holyoke, 90 minutes west of Boston. This old industrial city, fallen on hard times, long has had a large Irish population but these days many Puerto Ricans, my wife's people, live there as well. Indeed, she has cousins in a neighboring town. Like the Queens parade, the Holyoke parade (billed as the second largest in the United States) is a multicultural and inclusive affair. This year it will include Holyoke's openly gay new mayor, Alex Morse, who was elected in November 2011 at the age of 22 (yes, 22).
Perhaps next year we'll travel even farther afield to attend another inclusive parade: Dublin's. Yes, the kitschy St. Patrick's Day parade in the capital of the Irish Republic allows GLBT groups fully to participate, carrying their own banners riding on their own floats. In fact, polls of Ireland's population show nearly 75% support for same-sex marriage. Civil unions were made the law of the land in 2010 with nary a political party in opposition.
These liberal attitudes in Ireland proved quite an embarrassment for New York's parade organizers in 2010. Eagerly anticipating the 2011 parade, the 250th in New York, they asked then-Irish President Mary McAleese to serve as grand marshal. McAleese, considered a conservative Catholic when first elected in 1997, had been in office a strong ally of the LGBT community in Ireland. She thus refused to participate in New York's Fifth Avenue parade because of its exclusion of GLBT groups, and even rejected a compromise offer that she appear at St. Pat's for All in Queens, then at the Fifth Avenue parade.
I can only imagine that, over time, in a city as diverse and liberal as New York, the parade organizers' position will become untenable. This year President Obama has invited Michael Barron, head of Ireland's largest GLBT advocacy group, to the White House for St. Patrick's Day.
There may even be hope for South Boston. The neighborhood's longtime State Senator, Jack Hart, recently announced his retirement. There are three Democratic candidates entered in an April 30 primary to replace him. Two of them, State. Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry of Dorchester and South Boston native Maureen Dahill, have said they will not participate in the parade if GLBT groups are excluded as they have been since 1993. The third, State Rep. Nick Collins of South Boston, intends to march, but accompanied by GLBT supporters (without a banner identifying them as such, of course). The candidate who wins this seat will, by tradition, become the host of the annual St. Patrick's Day breakfast. I'll be very interested to see how things play out if a strong opponent of exclusion is in that role. At the least, the days where demagoguery on this issue was a winning political strategy in the district appear to have passed.
Perhaps current Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore (Labour) said it best: "What these parades are about is a celebration of Ireland and Irishness. I think they need to celebrate Ireland as it is, not as people imagine it. Equality is very much the center of who we are in our identity in Ireland. This issue of exclusion is not Irish, let’s be clear about it. Exclusion is not an Irish thing."
Irish identity can be many things. It does not inherently consist of Pat Robertson's social politics and Dick Cheney's foreign policy. No longer will I allow the Wacko Hurleys of the world to make me feel alienated from my own heritage. They do not speak for me, and I am not alone. I'll stand with Eamon Gilmore, and Mary McAleese, and Tony Flaherty, and Brendan Fay, and all the daughters and sons of Ireland, wherever they may be, who believe in equality and inclusion.
Beannachta' na Feile Padraig!
Sunnyside St. Patrick's Day preaches equality
March 05, 2013
By Andrew Pavia
The all-inclusive St. Patrick's Day Parade in Sunnyside and Woodside kicked off with kids dancing and elected officials speaking this past Sunday afternoon at the corner of Skillman Avenue and 47th Street.
The Celtic Dream Irish Dancers, a group from P.S. 59 in the Bronx, performed traditional Irish dances. True to the parade's theme, the group is made up of Latino, Indian and African-American children who performed for the crowd.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, made his way to his second St. Patrick's Day parade in two days on Sunday. "By order of the mayor, everybody is a little bit Irish," he said to the crowd.
Just as in the Rockaways the day before, Sunnyside resident Kristina Ippolito said she heard Bloomberg being booed when he took the stage.
Speaker and openly gay mayoral candidate Christine Quinn also spoke before the parade began. She said the parade is important because protestors fought for the right of gay members of the community to march.
"It's an example of diversity in New York City," Quinn said. "Make no mistake, parades like this have change the entire political landscape."
Quinn said that it is important to remember that gay organizations are still not allowed to walk in the 5th Avenue parade.
"We're not done," she said.
Irish Arts Center executives lead Sunnyside's St. Pat's for All parade
Crowds turn out for 14th annual Queen's neighborhood St. Patrick's Day Parade
March 05, 2013
By Irish Central Staff Writers
Record crowds turned out last Sunday afternoon for the 14th annual St Pat's For All Parade in Sunnyside, Queens.
This St. Patrick's Day parade merits itself as being one of the most diverse in the city, embracing LGBT contingents, community groups, children's bands, Irish organizations and religious and civic groups, all in celebration of Ireland.
This year's Grand Marshalls were the Irish Arts Center's Executive Director Aidan Connolly and Vice Chair Pauline Turley. City officials in attendance included New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and House Speaker Christine Quinn.
Dancers from the Bronx-based Keltic Dreams, led by dance teacher Caroline Duggan performed for the crowds before the parade began.
The New York Fire Department's Emerald Society Pipes and Drums corps led the parade along Skillman avenue before it drew to a close at Woodside Ave & 58th Street.
The parade was founded by community activist Brendan Fay, who was arrested at three St. Patrick's parades on Fifth Avenue, when he tried to march with a gay rights group.
Multicultural St. Pat's For All Parade Held In Queens
CBS New York
March 03, 2013
NEW YORK (CBS New York) An early St. Patrick's Day was held in Queens Sunday, by a group that says the Fifth Avenue Parade set to take to the street in about two weeks is not inclusive. The St. Pat’s for All Parade was held Sunday afternoon, beginning its route at 47th Street and Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside, Queens, and ending at Woodside Avenue and 58th Street.
The parade included puppets, bagpipers, gay groups, and the Shannon Gaels Football Club.
In published reports, organizer Brendan Fay has said he and other participants in the Queens parade took issue with the larger Fifth Avenue parade, which has turned away groups marching under gay banners on the grounds that political displays are not appropriate.
Fay said in a New York Times report that this year's parade was to include representatives of numerous world cultures, including Pakistani, Bengali, Bolivian, Ecuadorean, Chinese and Korean groups, as well as a group of young black and Latino step-dancers who came from the Bronx.
The FNDY Emerald Society Pipes and Drums corps also marched for the first time, after Fay spent many years as a lone bagpiper because other groups would not participate, the newspaper reported.
Fay founded the parade in 2000, after twice being arrested at three St. Patrick's parades the year before as he tried to march with a gay rights group, the newspaper reported.
Insurgent St. Patrick's Day Parade Comes Into Its Own
New York Times
March 01, 2013
By Corey Kilgannon
Brendan Fay pointed to an e-mail on his computer screen from the New York Fire Department's Emerald Society Pipes and Drums corps confirming that it would be marching in the St. Patrick's Day parade in Queens, on Sunday.
"Now that's how you know the tide has turned for us," said Mr. Fay, 54, adding that this would be quite a change from the lone bagpiper that the fledgling parade had most years.
Mr. Fay helped found the parade in 2000, and since then he had had trouble finding pipe bands willing to play in this parade whose name, St. Pat's for All, and theme of inclusion are a swipe at the much larger and older St. Patrick's Day parade held on Fifth Avenue. In the Fifth Avenue parade, people seeking to march under gay banners have been turned away. (The organization that runs the parade says its policy is meant to discourage political displays, including banners and slogans on T-shirts.)
"I'd try to get pipe bands to participate, and they'd say something like, 'Oh, you're that parade - no, we're not available,'" said Mr. Fay, who helped start the Queens event after being arrested at three St. Patrick's Day parades in 1999 after he tried to march under a banner for a gay alliance.
"I know what it's like to be told you're not welcome," Mr. Fay said as he rushed around his Astoria, Queens, home making last-minute preparations for this Sunday's parade, which starts at 2 p.m. in Sunnyside and runs for two hours. It begins at Skillman Avenue and 47th Street and proceeds east on Skillman, ending at Woodside Avenue and 58th Street.
With the phone ringing constantly, Mr. Fay finalized details for portable toilets, pipers and puppets to be held aloft by children. The parade has grown in size every year, and this year he expects more than 2,000 participants.
Bars along the route where some parade-goers felt uncomfortable now are opening early for breakfast on parade day, he said.
As for the parade, he said, "We err on the side of hospitality and inclusiveness." And with the doors wide open, he has certainly amassed a wide array of regular attendees, including from many ethnic groups in this extremely diverse area of Queens.
At the moment, Mr. Fay was making arrangements with Pakistani and Bengali contingents. There will be Bolivian, Ecuadorean, Korean and Chinese groups, as well as a troupe of young black and Latino step-dancers from the Bronx. Mr. Fay called a Turkish contingent seeking to march for the first time, to honor the food shipments that Turkey sent Ireland during the potato famine. Then there was the Mexican group marching in tribute to that country's San Patricio battalion in the Mexican-American War.
"We try to reflect the spirit of New York - we're all neighbors, we marry each other," Mr. Fay said in his living room, which is presided over by a green statue of St. Patrick, rescued from a trash heap, with its arms broken off.
It was easier a decade ago when barely any politicians marched. That has changed, especially after Hillary Rodham Clinton showed up several times. Now elected officials are practically trampling over children to engage with spectators, joked Tom Moulton, Mr. Fay's husband, who for the past week has been baking cakes and cookies for pre-parade events.
Now Mr. Fay's in-box is full of e-mails from the offices of elected officials and politicians jostling for favored positions, including Joseph J. Lhota, a Republican candidate in the hotly contested race to succeed Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who will also be marching. Mr. Fay said he would probably not put the mayor next to the Occupy Wall Street contingent.
On a refrigerator was a sheaf of personal checks sent as donations, including one for $100 from Arriba Arriba, a Mexican restaurant on Queens Boulevard that heard about the parade from a nearby Irish bar.
As usual, the parade will honor the Rev. Mychal Judge, the gay Fire Department chaplain who marched in the parade in 2000 and died on Sept. 11, 2001, at the World Trade Center. And as usual there will be a moment of silence for Robert Rygor, an early critic of the Fifth Avenue parade who died of complications from H.I.V. in 1994.
Mr. Fay went out to the garage and climbed up a stepladder to pull down the parade's main banner, with help from Kathleen Walsh-D'Arcy, another leader of the event, which seems to have outgrown its early rebel days.
'We're now part of the St. Patrick's Day tradition in New York,' Mr. Fay said.
This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: March 7, 2013
The City Room column in some editions on Saturday about the growth of St. Pat's for All, a parade started in Queens in 2000 to include gay groups excluded from other St. Patrick’s Day parades, misstated the surname of the husband of a founder, Brendan Fay. He is Tom Moulton, not Moulter. And because of an editing error, the article misidentified the neighborhood where the parade route begins. It is Sunnyside, not neighboring Woodside.
Inclusive St. Pat’s Parade Turns 13
Irish government sends representative to Sunnyside for first time
Gay City News
March 14, 2012
By Andy Humm
St. Patrick’s Day parades around the city continue to ban LGBT contingents, but for the 13th year, the St. Pat’s for All Parade from Sunnyside to Woodside in Queens welcomed all on March 4.
The Irish government was represented this year by Minister for Equality Kathleen Lynch, who told the crowd, “Diversity is what we’re all about in Ireland, and that’s why we’ve succeeded everywhere in the world that we go.”
The Irish consul general to New York, Noel Kilkenny, was on hand and read a message of greeting from Irish President Michael D. Higgins.
“It is deeply reassuring,” Higgins wrote, “that there are many people who are proud of their Irishness –– in all its aspects and diversity –– that they invest so much effort and commitment in ensuring the success of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations all around the world.”
St. Patrick’s Day parades in Ireland are open to LGBT groups that want to participate.
The parade, led by organizers Brendan Fay and Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy, had as grand marshals Mary Brosnahan, who as executive director of the Coalition for the Homeless is the city’s most tenacious advocate on that issue, and historian Peter Quinn, who introduced himself as “the son of a New Deal congressman from the Bronx.”
“Just remember how boring the parade on Fifth Avenue is,” Quinn said. “Down with the banks, up with the Republic!”
A host of political leaders were on hand including Mayor Michel Bloomberg, Comptroller John Liu, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn was absent due to illness.
Councilman Jimmy van Bramer, who represents the area, said, “Our neighborhood embraces the parade more and more every single year. So proud to be Irish American and an openly gay man and that I can be both of those things in this parade.”
Councilmembers Daniel Dromm, Mark Weprin, Karen Koslowitz, Tish James, and Rosie Mendez were also there, as was Queens Congressman Joe Crowley.
State Senator Tom Duane told the crowd, “I’ve been told I have a face that is the map of Ireland. Well this is the face of Ireland: inclusiveness.”
His colleagues from the State Senate, Jose Peralta and Mike Gianaris, as well as Assemblyman David Weprin also marched.
Bloomberg said, “By order of the mayor, everyone is Irish. We have a long ways to go. Let’s keep up the fight.”
The LGBT community battles most St. Patrick’s parades in New York because of their refusal to let gay Irish groups participate. Staten Island Pride Events (SIPE) tried and failed last year to get into the island’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, leading to a boycott by most of these Democratic politicians, just as they refuse to march in the Fifth Avenue parade. In 2012, SIPE declined to even apply to participate in the March 4 Staten Island parade, which has declared itself a private religious event yet still receives city funds from Councilwoman Debi Rose and Borough President James Molinaro.
Bloomberg participates in most of the St. Patrick’s Day parades, whether or not they discriminate. He, Speaker Quinn, and Stringer, however, are fighting for the separation of church and state in the city’s quest to enforce its law banning worship services in public schools. In contrast, de Blasio and Liu support access for churches wishing to hold worship in the public schools.
In Sunnyside on March 4, de Blasio was celebrating diversity and told Gay City he thought all parades would eventually welcome LGBT groups.
“It will happen over time,” he said. “This is the movement of history.”
The St. Pat’s for All continues to bring together a grand mix of races, religions, cultures, and sexual orientations, from the multiracial Keltic Dreams dancers from PS 59 in the Bronx to Integrity, a group for LGBT Episcopalians. Integrity’s Paul Lane said, “How many other St. Patrick’s parades welcome Protestants and Catholics?”
St. Pat's Parade Mixes Pageantry & Politics
March 05, 2012
St. Pat's for All Parade Evolving Into Political Pageantry & Forum
It was a beautiful March day, with temperatures in the 40's, as I made my way down to hear the speeches and watch the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Sunnyside and Woodside.
Last year they moved the parade gathering area up a few blocks from 43rd Street to 47th Street. The new location seems to provide a more communal gathering spot than had the venue on 43rd Street which is in the middle of one of Sunnyside's busiest intersections.
I was amazed at the turn out of potential NYC mayoral candidates. NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, NYC Comptroller John Liu were all in attendance. Notably absent was St Pat's For All Parade regular, City Council Speaker, Christine Quinn. After the parade we contacted Quinn's office to inquire why she was absent and were informed that she wasn't feeling well. Outgoing Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, also arrived to make a few remarks at the event. According to well places sources, he took a helicopter from the Staten Island St Pat's Day Parade so he could also attend the pre-parade festivities at the Sunnyside St Pat's Day Parade.
Bloomberg Copters In - Three Of Four Mayoral Candidates Speakout.
All three potential mayoral candidates gave short speeches about the inclusiveness and diversity of the St Pat's For All Parade in Queens. Congressman Joe Crowley and State Senator Michael Giannaris talked about representing the neighborhood. Danny Dromm told us Christine Quinn sent her regrets. And Jimmy Van Bramer struck a personal note, saying he was proud to be able to serve the 26th District as an openly gay man. In the photo to your left State Senator Michael Giannaris at the podium with [L - R] Brendan Fay, Co-Chair of the parade, State Senator Tom Duane, Scott Stringer [behind Giannaris], City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. Kathleen Walsh D'Arcy, Co-chair of the parade, was not visible on the stage at the time this photo was taken, but is shown in the second photo of the slide show below.
St Pats Parade Co-chairs, Brendan Fay and Kathleen Walsh, emcee'd the pre-parade festivities. In addition to introducing the government officials mentioned above, they introduced Ireland's Consul General, Noel Kilkenny, who is the first official representative from Ireland to attend the parade. He also echoed the sentiments of inclusiveness and diversity. Novelist and social worker, Mary Brosnahan, discussed the times in which we live. Director of the Coalition for the Homeless, Brosnahan was also a guest speaker, and she asked us not to shun those in need during these difficult economic times. She told us that there are currently 41,000 people living in homeless shelters in NYC, of which 17,000 of them are children. Those are stunning statistics, when you actually think of what these people's lives must be like.
Historian and novelist Peter Quinn also made a few remarks. Apparently he's the son of a New Deal Democrat who was a judge from the Bronx. He reminded us of the story of an Irish immigrant, Grace Farrell, who at age 35 died of over-exposure on the steps of St. Brigid's Church on Avenue B on the lower East Side in mid February 2010. St. Brigid's church had been erected in the 1840's by Irish immigrants.
In the photo above, there were marchers from Occupy Queens. There were also marchers representing Occupy Astoria/LIC, and a few other activist / social causes, such as LGBT rights, Dignity USA, the Ethical Humanists, GOAL [anti-poverty], AIDS, Guatemalan Victims of medical experimentation, Taxi Workers Alliance, Veterans For Peace and Free Bradley Manning. That said, the parade continues to be predominantly Irish, with quite a number of Irish groups from Queens marching in it.
Time To Dance & Let The Music Begin
The Brian Fleming Band returned this year to tickle our toes with some energetic Irish dance music. The band members include Jerry Arias on the djimbe drum, Carmen on the tamborine, Vonnie Quinn on the fiddle, Dave Barckow playing guitar and Brian playing the bodhran drum.
We were treated to a couple of dance performances, first by Caroline Duggan and the Celtic Dream Dancers of PS 59 in the Bronx and secondly by Niall O'Leary & co. The Celtic Dream Dancers were African American and Latinos and their teacher was from Ireland. This was followed by a performance by the Niall O'Leary School of Dance, who generally also dance in the parade.
And so the parade began. It began with groups of government officials, followed by tons of other groups. This was the best St Pat's For All Parade that I've watched in the four years I've been covering the event. But judge for yourself by viewing the photo slide show below. And you can compare it with the slide shows we've done in prior years [2010 was quite good too] by clicking this link into our archives of prior years St Pats For All Parade in Sunnyside, Woodside and Queens.
Come One, Come All, To St. Pat's For All! March 4
New York Irish Arts
March 03, 2012
How It's New York: The St. Pat's for All Parade celebrates the diversity of NYC, among other things, including the Borough of Queens!
How It's Irish: Brendan Fay, who started the Parade in 2000, is an Irish immigrant. He began the parade when the Ancient Order of Hibernians rejected LGBT marching under their own banners again and again.
How I love this parade-- in its inclusiveness it represents the city I love, and it would not be if not for the Irish St. Patrick's Day. It's strange to remember that, as Brendan Fay told us on the February 26 week's podcast, when he first came to NYC it was still a crime in Ireland to be gay (I interviewed Brendan for a piece on the Brokentalkers show Silver Stars for the New York Times a few years ago-- a play about older gay men and their stories in Ireland).
Times have changed, and hearts have changed, and many Irish officials, including Consul General Noel Kilkenny and Speaker Christine Quinn, support the parade now-- but the AOH still doesn't allow LGBT to march under their own banners.
But this parade is not just an LGBT parade, it's an all-inclusive parade. And it will be FUN! Brian Fleming, Niall O'Leary School of Dance, Caroline Duggan and Keltic Dreams Dancers, Mexican dancers, a Choctaw blessing, Korean drummers.... All it needs is a Jirish group and it would be perfect (and that is my new mission in life). The parade begins at 1 pm, but the party will go on all day!
Sunnyside/Woodside St. Pat's parade this Sunday
March 02, 2012
The 13th annual Sunnyside/Woodside “St. Pat’s for All” parade is scheduled to take place this Sunday, March 4. This year’s parade will begin at the corner of 47th Street & Skillman Ave. and end at Woodside Ave. & 58th Street. Participants are advised to show up at about 1:00 pm, although the parade does not officially kick off until 2:00 pm.
The St. Pats for All parade was initially viewed as a gay-pride parade, since it was started by a number of Irish men and women who were not allowed to march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade on Fifth Ave under a gay banner.
Today, the Sunnyside/Woodside event has morphed into more of a community parade, where seniors, children, minorities, gays and even a local dog group participate.
The co-chairs, Brendan Fay and Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy, have always sought a community event—although with an underlying Irish flavor.
This year Peter Quinn, author of the “The Man Who Never Returned,” and Mary Brosnahan, the executive director of the Coalition for the Homeless, have been named as grand marshals.
Co-founder of St. Pat’s for All Parade
The Queens Courier
March 21, 2011
By Laura Ciminera
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Brendan Fay is the co-founder and co-chair with Kathleen Walsh D'Arcy of the St Pat's for All Parade – New York's 12-year-old inclusive St. Patrick's parade. He is also the founder of the Irish LGBT group, Lavender and Green Alliance, and The Civil Marriage Trail, bringing couples across the border to Canada and Connecticut for legal marriage. Fay also volunteers with local homeless shelter in Astoria.
PERSONAL: Fay was born in 1958 in Athy, County Kildare, Ireland. He’s the son of Mary Kavanagh and Peter Fay and has five sisters and one brother. In 1971, the family moved to Drogheda where he went to primary school run by the Sisters of Mercy. Their dedication to charity and kindness to the poor was a real inspiration. When Fay was 14, he joined the Irish Christian Brothers and remained as a postulant for four years. He holds bachelors (honors) and master degrees in theology/sociology from St. Patrick's College, Maynooth, Ireland and St. John's University.
JOB: Fay is an independent filmmaker and coordinated "Silence to Speech," a documentary series on being Irish and gay in America. He directed “A Month’s Mind” and was co-producer of "Saint of 9/11;" both documentaries about Father Mychal Judge, the FDNY Franciscan chaplain who died in the World Trade Center tragedy on September 11. Currently, he’s completing a film about gay pioneer priest John McNeill entitled “Taking a chance on God” ( takingachanceongod.com) and also working on a book about Dorothy Day called Friends of Dorothy.
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “The biggest challenge for me is to take it easy, and to take enough time to enjoy the simple gifts of life – the songs, the hugs, the dance, to laugh and enjoy the gifts of friends and family and the marvels of the beautiful New York City we call home.” As an activist, Fay has two mottos: "First item on the agenda put on the kettle" and "It’s always a yes, until it’s a no."
FAVORITE MEMORY: Fay recalls taking walks with his dad in Drogheda, leaving Ireland and landing in JFK for his masters in St. John’s leading to the joy of teaching for five years in Catholic schools, as well as his wedding day in 2003 in Brooklyn to Tom Moulton.
INSPIRATION: Fay wakes up each morning at 6.30 a.m. and goes for a jog in Astoria Park feeling grateful for the gift of "another day above ground," as his father would say. “I am inspired by the simple goodness of many New Yorkers and the courage of community and peace activists like the New York Catholic Worker, which keeps the kettle going and lights the candle rather than curses the dark.” – Laura Ciminera
'St. Pat's For All Parade' in Sunnyside
The Queens Courier
March 08, 2011
By Jessica Lyons
Despite some rainy weather, the community still gathered on Sunday, March 6 in Sunnyside for the all-inclusive St. Pat’s For All Parade, now in its 12th year.
“St. Pat’s For All is a generous gathering of youth groups, unions and community groups together for an all-inclusive celebration of Irish heritage,” said Brendan Fay, the co-founder of the parade. “For a few hours, hands, pipers and puppeteers turn the streets of Sunnyside and Woodside into ‘Ireland of the Welcomes.’ Hospitality is at the heart of our celebration.”
Co-chair Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy said, “The St. Pat’s For All Parade embraces everyone young and old in Queens, the most ethnically diverse borough of New York.”
Many elected officials came out to show their support for the event, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who thanked Fay for putting the parade together every year. “This is a great day for the Irish and for all New Yorkers,” Bloomberg said.
The Sunnyside parade was held the same day as the Staten Island St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which excluded members of the LGBT community from participating. Because of this, many speakers stressed the inclusiveness of St. Pat’s for All. Council Speaker Christine Quinn described it as a place where people can go every March to be “reminded of how great” New York City is.
“Every street in this city is for everyone,” Quinn said.
This year’s grand marshals were Patricia Lewsley, the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children & Young People, and James P. Cullen, a human rights advisor to President Obama.
The parade began at 47th Street and Skillman Avenue and ended at 58th Street in Woodside. Prior to the start of the marching, organizers and attendees took time out to remember those who had passed away and made “incredible” contributions to the community.
Parade In Sunnyside, Woodside & Queens
March 07, 2011
The St. Pat's For All Parade in Sunnyside marched up Skillman Avenue to Woodside in spite of a persistent rain and overcast skies. The event was headlined by the Mayor, the City Council Speaker, two city councilmen, a former police chief and a couple of guests from Ireland.
Of note was Christine Quinn's impassioned speech about eliminating discrimination. This speech was in response to a decision by the St. Patrick's Day Parade organizers in Staten Island to prohibit gays from marching in their parade. A similar decision was made about ten years ago by the Manhattan St. Patrick's Day parade organizers. The St. Pat's For All Parade in Sunnyside & Woodside does not prohibit gays from marching in its parade.
Given the inclement weather and shortened parade route [all parade routes have been shortened by 25% this year], there appeared to be far fewer parade watchers, but that didn't seem to dampen anyone's spirits [pun intended]. Shortly after the parade ended a great downpour came, telling us all that the parade was over. I guess our Irish guests brought along a bit of weather from the old country.
Click here to view a slide show of St Patrick's Day Parade photos 2011 in Sunnyside, Woodside & Queens.
At 3 Parades in 2 Days, Receptions Vary for Mayor
New York Times
March 06, 2011
By Elissa Gootman
Brendan Fay, the co-chairman of the St. Pat’s for All parade in Queens, was making his final preparations on Saturday evening (Banners? Check. Irish flags? Check. Umbrellas? Check.) when the calls started pouring in.
“I got e-mails, telephone calls and some texts,” he recalled. “ ’Brendan, did you see what happened in the Rockaways? Did you hear the reaction the mayor got? The mayor was booed! It’s all over the news!’ ”
Indeed, as Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg marched on Saturday at the 36th annual Queens County St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Belle Harbor, the traditional wailing bagpipes were offset by jeers, catcalls and the occasional expletive — and punctuated by more than one rude hand gesture.
The dissatisfied parade-watchers of the Rockaways cited a range of issues, including the city’s response to the Dec. 26 snowstorm to the mayor’s talk of teacher layoffs and the shortening of the parade route.
It was unclear how many people were still smarting from the mayor’s off-the-cuff remarks in February when, speaking at the American Irish Historical Society, he said he was used to seeing “people that are totally inebriated” hanging out the window there. That comment drew criticism from Irish-American officials, and the mayor quickly apologized; several hecklers interviewed at the parade in the Rockaways said they were unaware of the remark and were disgruntled for other reasons.
“You ought to thank God there is not a snowstorm here, Mr. Mayor,” cried Danny Boyle, 29, of Rockaway Beach. “Otherwise, you wouldn’t make it.”
Mr. Fay, who founded St. Pat’s for All 12 years ago, as a gay-friendly alternative to the city’s traditional St. Patrick’s Day parades, described the mayor’s comments at the Historical Society as “a bit of an old story.” Yet whatever inspired the jeers in the Rockaways, they were cause for concern, he said. “We try to maintain a spirit of respect and hospitality in our parade,” Mr. Fay said.
On Sunday, Mr. Fay breathed a sigh of relief: Mr. Bloomberg was received mostly with cheers and thumbs-ups as he marched in the St. Pat’s for All parade, through Sunnyside and Woodside in Queens. “I was very happy,” Mr. Fay said.
It went the same way on Staten Island, where the mayor marched earlier in the day. Mr. Bloomberg — his green sweater peeking out from behind his coat — was greeted warmly, though with scattered boos.
“He’s always welcome on Staten Island,” said Craig Campbell, a podiatrist who was the grand marshal. The mayor was trailed, pied-piper-like, by Staten Island’s latest celebrities: members of the Public School 22 chorus, fresh from singing at the Academy Awards.
The Staten Island parade-goers who booed the mayor said they were upset about road repairs, the high cost of living in the city, and overcrowded schools.
Stephen Avena, 45, said it was his only chance to communicate with Mr. Bloomberg. “He would never want to talk to a rank-and-file person,” Mr. Avena complained.
James P. Molinaro, the Staten Island borough president, shrugged off the mayor’s frosty reception in the Rockaways on Saturday. “It’s all part of the job,” he said. “He’s dealing with eight-and-a-half million people. No matter what you do, there’s someone you’re going to dissatisfy.”
Angela Macropoulos, Mick Meenan and Karen Zraick contributed reporting.
Planning Begins for Sunnyside/Woodside St. Pat's Parade
February 05, 2011
The 12thannual Sunnyside/Woodside St. Pats For All parade is scheduled to kick off on March 6th at 47thStreet and Skillman Ave (details below).
The parade, which has typically started at 43rdand Skillman, has been shortened this year following the New York Police Dept.’s decision to reduce the length of all parades.
The St. Pats For All parade is arguably the community’s most popular event. When it began 12 years ago, it was initially viewed as a gay-pride parade, since it was started by a number of Irish men and women who were not allowed to march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade on Fifth Ave under a gay banner.
Today, the Sunnyside/Woodside event has morphed into more of a community parade, which includes seniors, children, minorities and even local canines.
“We don’t want to be an isolated group celebrating our Irish uniqueness,” said Brendan Fay, a co-chair with Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy. Instead, “We want it to be about Irish culture with a focus on building a bridge to different groups in the neighborhood.”
“When we say St. Pats for all, we mean it,” Fay said.
“We want all local groups to join us in the parade,” he said, and urges community groups to go to the website and register to march under their own banner.
“We have Mexican, Bolivian, Ecuadorian and Chilean groups coming — and we really want children’s groups, theatre groups and seniors to march,” Fay said. “We want everyone to come.”
But the event will still remain true to its Irish heritage. There will be bagpipe bands and traditional Irish musicians, as well as Irish folk dancers.
This year’s Grand Marshals are Patricia Lewsley, Commissioner for Children and Young People in Northern Ireland, and James P. Cullen, Brigadier General (Ret.) and founding President of the Brehon Law Society.
Cullen, who is a human rights lawyer and is originally from Sunnyside, organized a collation of retired army generals who advised President Barack Obama on shutting down Guantanamo Bay.
This year’s parade is similar to previous years in that it is being run on an extremely low budget by a cash-starved group.
However, for the first time, there will be some city funding to ease the burden. Councilmen Jimmy Van Bramer and Daniel Drumm are both allocating $3,500 each toward the parade.
But it comes with a catch. The money isn’t likely to reach the group until after the parade takes place.
In the meantime, Fay has to pay bands, cover the cost of portable toilet rentals, and find the funds to pay for the cost of printing posters.
Queens’ St. Pat’s for All Parade Is Launched
By Amanda Tullos
New York’s all-inclusive St. Patrick’s Day parade, St. Pat’s for All, recently announced Patricia Lewsley and Jim Cullen as its 2011 parade Grand Marshals, with Co-chairs Brendan Fay and Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy making the announcement over breakfast at Agave restaurant in Chelsea, New York.
Lewsley, Commissioner for Children and Young People for Northern Ireland, is known for her tireless work on behalf of child protection and support programs. On October 11th, she was appointed chair of the European Network of Ombudsmen for Children (ENOC), a network made up of 37 countries which aims to promote the rights and best interests of children and young people at local, national and international levels.
Cullen, a Sunnyside native and former Brigadier General, is the founding president of the Brehon Law Society of New York. He was responsible for organizing his fellow military retirees to demand that the Bush/Cheney administration end the torture of prisoners, and also advised and witnessed President Obama’s signing of the Executive Order to end prisoner torture and close Guantanamo.
The breakfast reception was hosted by Agave’s owner, Susan McCarthy, and was attended by many individuals within the New York Irish community. New York City Council member and Immigration Chair, Daniel Dromm, spoke about the importance of this diverse and inclusive parade, and shared past parade memories.
Also in attendance was Consul General of Ireland, Noel Kilkenny, who praised the parade’s unique hospitable spirit. Past parade Grand Marshals Stanley Rygor, Mary Somoza and Sr. Mary Lanning also attended the gathering, as did the author TJ English, who represents the newly formed Irish Mexican Alliance, and President of the Irish Business Organization, Niall O’Leary.
After the announcement, parade Co-Chairs D’Arcy and Fay addressed the gathering, emphasizing what the St Pat’s for All parade means to them and urging people to come along and enjoy the day. Fay stressed the need for community volunteers to get involved: “We meet every week from now through March 6th and welcome the marvelous diversity of community groups, parishes, bands and individuals in our celebration. An enormous amount of work goes into preparing for St. Pat’s for All. We need and welcome support and help”, he said.
St. Pat’s for All Parade celebrates the diversity of the Irish and Irish American communities of New York. It is the first open and welcoming Irish parade in New York for all who wish to share the spirit of the day regardless of race, gender, creed, or sexual orientation. The parade takes place in Queens on March 6th, 2011. To find out more contact Kathleen or Brendan at 718-721-2780 or by emailing
Irish Pride Shines In Queens
March 11, 2010
By Howard Koplowitz
The luck of the Irish extended to Sunnyside Sunday, where participants and spectators of the 11th-annual St. Pat’s for All Parade were treated to warm temperatures down the parade route.
The parade was started in 2000 in protest against the Manhattan St. Patrick’s Day Parade down Fifth Avenue, which does not allow gays and lesbians to march.
Brendan Fay, one of the Queens parade’s organizers, said this year’s event drew double the number of the participants in the previous one.
Just about every Queens elected official attended the gathering and expressed their support for the parade’s spirit.
“It’s wonderful to support St. Patrick’s Day in a parade that includes everyone,” said U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria), who put emphasis on the word “everyone.”
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the event “is one of the fun parades.”
“This is the kind of parade that every parade should be — open to everyone. Period, end of story,” he said.
The parade featured everything from bagpipe bands to fire engines and Bolivian dancers.
Bob Lesko, a political activist from Manhattan, said he prefers the Sunnyside parade because it embodies more of the Irish spirit.
“I find this parade, with all its constituent groups, so much a part of my Irish roots — being progressive,” he said. “It reflects what happens in Ireland — gays and lesbians march in every parade.”
Catherine Moore, who moved from Dublin to Sunnyside 23 years ago, said the parade reminded her of her youth in Ireland.
“This is huge in comparison” to the Manhattan parade, she said. “This is like something you’d see in Ireland. It’s very relaxed and very Irish. Even in Dublin, where in Manhattan it’s very staged.” Moore brought her sons, Oisin, 10, and Cian, 12, to the parade. “It’s just fun to come out and listen to the music,” Cian said. Oisin said he got a thrill from the bagpipe bands. “I just enjoy watching all the people go around,” he said.
Chris Connelly of Flushing said the Sunnyside event is the only “normal” parade in the city. He screamed at U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills), who was marching along the parade route, asking him to run for governor. “You’d wish that on me?” Weiner quipped.
Victoria Campos, 6, of New Jersey said she got a kick out of the Bolivian dancers, fire engines and SpongeBob SquarePants.
Ray Ferdinand of Sunnyside said he was drawn to the parade’s diversity.
“I like the mix,” he said. “I thought it would be all Irish, but it’s people from everywhere getting down and that’s wonderful.”
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4573.
Dromm Leads Annual ‘St. Pat’s For All’ Parade
Sunnyside and Woodside celebrate the 11th annual St. Pat's For All Parade on Sunday March 7
March 10, 2010
By Camille Bautista
Shamrocks and green streamers blew in the wind alongside rainbow flags, as Queens celebrated its 11th annual St. Pat’s For All Parade & Fair in Sunnyside and Woodside.
Gays, lesbians, Latinos, Tibetans, Native Americans, Haitians, and many more diverse organizations came out on Sunday March 7 and joined Queens’ Irish community to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in an all-inclusive parade. Created in 2000 as an alternative to the Fifth Avenue ceremonies, which do not allow gays to participate, this parade welcomes all with the theme of “cherishing all children of the nation equally.”
“Our St Pat’s For All 2010 is a generous coming together of businesses, communities and musicians who for a few hours turn the streets of Sunnyside and Woodside into an ‘Ireland of the welcomes,’” said Brendan Fay, co-founder and co-chair of the parade. “Hospitality is at the heart of this inclusive St. Patrick’s celebration, which welcomes the diverse immigrant communities of Queens, as well as gay contingents.”
The ceremonies opened with Native American and Catholic prayers. The grand marshal, Councilmember Daniel Dromm, was joined by political and community leaders draped in Irish flags and beads, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and Comptroller John Liu.
From 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., participants marched from 43rd Street along Skillman Avenue to 61st Street and Woodside Avenue, carrying banners, playing bagpipes, beating conga drums and dancing in cultural costumes. The number of participants doubled from last year, according to Fay. Among the organizations were Dignity USA, a group for gay, lesbian, and transgender Catholics, the Keltic Dreams Irish Dancers – a group of black, Latino and South Asian students from P.S. 59 in the Bronx, and the San Simon Bolivian dance group. “It’s something different and new, something exciting to get involved in,” said Denise Jones, Social Director of the South Queens Boys and Girls Club, an organization that has been marching in the parade for the past three years. “The kids really enjoy it and we’ve made it a part of us, something that we do every year.”
Mexican organizations also showed their support, as they honor Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Irishmen who helped Mexico fight against U.S. invasion in the 1800s.
“We like to march in this parade every year because it is fun and something good to be a part of,” said Patricia Hernandez, president of the Comite Civico Mexicano and creator of the first Mexican Day Parade in Manhattan.
Though faced with a few protestors in the sea of green spectators, many felt and considered this celebration a stepping stone in progress towards an all-embracing future.
“We’ve always been angry that the parade in the city has not allowed gay people to march openly,” said Sherry Rogers, secretary of the Brooklyn-Queens Chapter of the National Organization for Women. “This is everything that we stand for, a parade that is open to everybody where people are able to express themselves.”
St Pat's Day Parade Growing In Stature
March 08, 2010
Sunnyside & Woodside / March 8, 2010. By all accounts the St Pat's Day Parade in Sunnyside and Woodside was a big success. We estimate that on this fine day the audience count was easily in the thousands [two to three thousand is our estimate]. This was significantly up versus last year, quite possibly due to the nice, sunny weather, which included temperatures in the fifties, although there was a cool breeze.
The St Pat's For All Parade in Sunnyside and Woodside has been in existence for eleven years now. It's interesting to note that the parade legacy only goes back little more than a decade, given that Sunnyside and Woodside were considered the Irish sections of Queens for the better part of the last century.
The parade began out of a controversy in the late nineties. The Manhattan St Pat's Day Parade forbids non-heterosexuals to march in their New York City parade. Click here to read the rest of this story including a slide show and a link to our album for the St Pat's Day Parade photos 2010 in Sunnyside and Woodside.
Parade Embraces Human Diversity
It's ironic that the New York City St Pat's parade took a more narrow view of things, while the small, local town of Sunnyside in Queens took a more open approach to the parade. But I suppose, given that Sunnyside is located smack dab in the middle of the great American melting pot [Queens], where all peoples of the world meet, live and work side by side, perhaps it shouldn't be so surprising.
Actually, in many ways, Queens is far more ethnically and economically diverse than Manhattan, and in those respects as well as others, Queens is far more cosmopolitan than Manhattan. The discriminatory practices of the St Pat's Day Parade in Manhattan is only one such example.
St Pat's For All Parade - Originations & History
The St Pat's For All Parade takes its cue from the Proclamation Of The Irish Republic on Easter of 1916. Within the Proclamation it stated that its intent was "cherishing all children of the nation equally". As you will note while viewing the photos, included in the parade are Latin and Asian groups.
Here's a slide show of the parade, including some of the pre-event speech making by the City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, City Comptroller John Liu, and a couple of the newly elected city council men, Jimmy Van Bramer of Sunnyside and Daniel Dromm of Jackson Heights.
A history of the parade, including other information about the event organizers, how to participate in the parade and how to contribute to the parade may be obtained by clicking this link to the St Pat's For All website.
The St. Pat’s For All Parade Marches to a Haitian Beat
The Wall Street Journal
March 07, 2010
By Gwen Orel
The wearing of the green, bagpipers in kilts, Irish stepdancers…and the sounds of a Haitian rara band.
The St. Pat’s For All Parade, beginning at 43rd Street and Skillman Avenue in Queens at 1 p.m. today, includes a Haitian contingent this year. The parade welcomes the homosexual community officially banned from the Fifth Avenue St. Patrick’s Day parade run by the Hibernian Society. It has always been multicultural: Chileans have marched since the parade began in 2000 (Bernardo O’Higgins, one of the founding fathers of independent Chile, was half-Irish).
As for inviting the Haitians, “As Irish people we know about famine and immigration and death, it’s in our psyche,” explains Brendan Fay, who co-chairs the parade, with Kathleen D’Arcy (Fay is also one of its founders).
Concern Worldwide’s Susan Finuchne, an early responder in Haiti, will address the crowd. The Irish-based international humanitarian organization has been in Haiti since 1994, employing 250 nationals there.
Says Leslie Victor, who will carry the Haitian flag, “The Irish are from an island, and we are from an Island too. We were occupied by the French; they were occupied by the British. I am Catholic. St. Patrick is Catholic.” And, “You have to get up and dance when you hear a rara band, no matter where you come from.”
Bolivians will march for the first time, and Peruvians carrying an image of Roger Casement. Before he was executed in 1916, the Irish patriot wrote passionately about the abuses of natives in rubber plantations.
“There’s tension in our community over who to include and exclude,” says Fay. “Let’s have tea for everybody.”
Astoria Characters: The Proud Parader
The Huffington Post
March 03, 2010
By Nancy McRuhling
The kettle is on the stove, the cats are on the couch, the St. Pat's statue is on the table, and Brendan Fay is elbow-deep in the paperwork and politics of parade preparations.
As Brendan knows only too well, March is Irish season in New York, the time when the city shows its true colors. In the palette of Brendan's St. Pat's for All Parade & Fair, the hues run not only to the orange and the green but also to every color of the rainbow.
"Parades are very important community cultural events," says Brendan, a human-rights activist/documentary filmmaker who is a frequent spokesman for the gay and lesbian community. "They allow us to celebrate our uniqueness and show that we belong. The Irish have always prided themselves on being a hospitable people, which is why this hurts so much."
"This" refers to the fact that the famed Manhattan St. Patrick's Day Parade excludes gays and lesbians. Brendan and his peers were allowed to march on Fifth Avenue only once -- in 1991 with then-Mayor David Dinkins. "Most people remember the jeers, but I remember the cheers," he says. "It changed my life because it allowed me to come out in a very public way and to unite the three significant parts of my life -- Irish, Catholic and gay."
After getting arrested more times than he can remember for "crashing" the parade -- "the police knew me so well that they used to say, 'I guess you'll be our house guest again this St. Patrick's'" -- he co-founded Queens' St. Pat's for All, the parade with the biggest heart, the mightiest message and the slimmest support.
Brendan, an elfish man with a sweet smile, has a heart bigger than the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. If he has a fault, it's that he's kind to a fault. He's been known to stop work to counsel the neighborhood's down on their luck, and once, when he was working at a soup kitchen, he was chastised for giving someone two tins of tuna instead of the quota of one. Then there are the cats: Every stray strays his way, and he never turns any away.
Brendan wears his Catholic Irishness like a prize medal. He was born in Athy, a small town in County Kildare, in 1958 and moved to the town of Drogheda when he was 10. He was what the Irish called a working-class lad but what Americans would classify as Angela's Ashes poor. His dad toiled in an asbestos factory while his mother stayed at home to care for him, his older brother and five sisters.
At age 8, he went to work. "I packed spuds at the local grocery," he says. "My payment was an orange drink and a bag of potato crisps called Taytos. In the summers, I worked on a fruit farm. In my spare time, I hung out at the convent; the Sisters of Mercy had an enormous impact on my life for good."
The "religious lad" in the family, he joined the Irish Christian Brothers at 14. "I was told to be totally honest in confession, and I told the priests I was thinking about sex and that I had an attraction for other guys," he says. "So they told me I could not be a brother and made me leave."
Devastated, he traveled to Dublin, where he took a succession of humble jobs that included waiting on tables at a fancy gentleman's club and helping out at a center for handicapped children.
"I enjoyed and was frightened by my freedom," he says. "And I started exploring the gay scene, even though it was a criminal offense in the 1970s to be a homosexual. I was closeted, fearful and full of self-hate, so I went to priests who tried to heal me and make me straight. I also learned activism from the nuns and priests in Ireland."
While studying theology at St. Patrick's College in Maynooth, Brendan met a visiting American professor who encouraged him to apply to St. John's University for graduate studies.
In 1984, at the height of the AIDS crisis, Brendan and his backpack arrived in New York City for what he thought would be only a two-year stay. "I had longed to get out of Ireland because as a gay man, I needed breathing space," he says. "New York made me feel like a mouse next to an elephant. Everything was huge. There were pancakes every day and big buildings and so many gorgeous men!"
After graduation, he took a job teaching religion at the Mary Louis Academy, a Catholic girls' high school in Jamaica, and took up a steady stool in every Irish pub and gay club he could find. "Once I started drinking, I couldn't stop," he says, adding he has been sober for more than two decades. "It was a way of coping with being gay and staying silent about it."
But his actions became louder than his words. After he became active in the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization and did the Irish jig with Dinkins at the 1991 parade, he made headlines when he was dismissed from his teaching job.
Brendan was shocked by the pink slip. "Participating in the parade was in total keeping with my Catholic faith, which involved standing up in the face of discrimination," he says. "I was happy to be telling people that Catholicism was against discrimination and was leading the way for inclusion."
To keep his faith, he started making documentaries about gay Catholic heroes, including ACT-UP spokesman Robert Rygor and FDNY Chaplain Mychal Judge, who was a casualty of the 9/11 attacks. He latest film, Uncommon Jesuit, is about gay pioneer priest John McNeill.
Brendan found himself in the news again in 2000 at the first St. Pat's for All Parade & Fair, and in 2003 when he went to Canada to marry Tom Moulton, who he met at mass. Their photo appeared on the cover of several New York City newspapers.
His name played prominently in the international news again in 2008 when Polish President Lech Kaczynski, in a nationally televised homophobic address, showed a video clip of Brendan and Tom at their civil wedding in Canada. (Brendan and Tom went to Poland to try to talk with Kaczysnki but were rebuffed.)
But there's one headline that continues to elude him: BRENDAN FAY GETS MANHATTAN'S ST. PAT'S PARADE TO WELCOME GAYS. "I still make a formal request every year to be in the other parades," he says. "But nobody ever gets back to me. But it will happen in my lifetime. My dream is that St. Pats for All will be a model for all Irish parades in New York City and will spread to other boroughs. Already, gays and lesbians are marching in other ethnic parades."
St. Pats for All, he reminds, is part of his greater mission.
"I'll continue my civil-rights crusades to help people the world over," Brendan says. "I'm taking a stand every day, whether it's attending a rally for marriage equality or organizing a lunchtime vigil at a foreign embassy to protest laws, such as those in Uganda, that permit the death penalty for lesbian and gay persons."
And so he will march this March and every March until the rest of the world gets in step with him.
Nancy A. Ruhling may be reached at Nruhling@gmail.com.
Copyright 2010 by Nancy A. Ruhling
Marching Towards Equality
Gay City News
March 17, 2009
By Winnie McCroy
Throughout the course of the last decade, a small St. Patrick’s Day parade in a New York borough has made a lasting mark on the world. The all-inclusive St. Pat’s For All Parade, held on March 1 in Sunnyside, Queens, has evolved from an “alternative” holiday parade, organized by gay activist Brendan Fay, to a remarkable example of a community embracing diversity.
“When we began this parade we couldn’t have imagined the friendships and community spirit that sustained and helped the parade grow beyond the streets of Queens to include annual concerts at the Irish Arts Center and local schools,” said Fay. “People get it. It’s still the parade that has the aspect to it that ‘We welcome you,’ that ‘We’re inclusive.’”
This year’s grand marshals, Terry George, a director (“The Boxer”) and screenwriter (“Hotel Rwanda”), and songwriter and folksinger Susan McKeown — both of them Irish-born — led the parade. As in years previous, community organizations, dancers, musicians, and puppeteers marched under their own banners, celebrating Queens’ cultural diversity. An NAACP group carried the banner of Frederick Douglass, recalling his visit to Ireland during the famine. The Mexican community honored San Patricios and how Irish immigrants defended them in the US-Mexican War of 1846-1848. Ecuadoreans celebrated the founder of their navy, Irishman Thomas Charles Wright. Native people from the Choctaw and Shinnecock tribes remembered how their outreach in 1847 helped save starving Irish people during the great famine.
Even the African-American and Latino children from the Irish dance group the Keltic Dreams of P.S. 59 in the Bronx witnessed how, in stark contrast to Ancient Order of Hibernians’ parade on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, which bars participants from identifying themselves as LGBT, this event invites all to show their connection with Irish culture and heritage.
This year, parade attendance was higher than ever, with the route lined with spectators despite brisk temperatures and morning flurries. A parade that originally drew anti-gay protesters and only a small turnout of curious community members gathered along Skillman Avenue has undeniably become a cherished neighborhood tradition.
“We come together as diverse communities of New Yorkers to celebrate Irish heritage and culture,” said Fay. “Exclusion in 2009 — whether from a community parade, a family table, or an institution such as marriage — is wrong and unfair.”
If politicians represent a fair barometer of popular attitudes, the St. Pat’s For All’s philosophy seems to have gained ascendancy in Sunnyside.
“Every year, more and more elected officials realize that this is a people’s parade,” said co-organizer Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy.
City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, an out lesbian from Chelsea, marches in Queens every year and boycotts the Hibernians’ parade. She was joined in Sunnyside by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Senator Charles Schumer, Comptroller William Thompson, Congressmen Anthony Weiner and Joseph Crowley, State Senator Thomas K. Duane, also openly gay and from Chelsea, Assemblymembers Rory Lancman and José Peralta, and Councilmembers Tony Avela, Elizabeth Crowley, Bill DiBlasio, James Gennaro, Eric Gioia, John Liu, and David Yassky.
“What this parade says today is that all members of the Irish community in New York City are very welcome to be a part… and to be out and proud about who they are,” said Quinn. “Anybody who thinks that the Irish community doesn’t want to embrace its LGBT members just need look at this parade and how much it has grown every year, and how much more diverse and strong it gets every year.”
“You know, all parades should be open to everyone. Let’s get serious,” said Bloomberg, who, like Schumer, nonetheless marches in the exclusionary Hibernian event as well.
Community groups marching included the Boys and Girls Clubs, the Fire Department’s office of recruitment, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders, or SAGE, Irish for Obama, the Niall O’Leary School of Dance, the Lavender & Green Alliance, the All-City School Marching Band, Local 1199, Dignity New York, the Episcopal Society of St. Francis, Catholic Workers, the Metropolitan Community Church, the AIDS Center of Queens, and alumni of Notre Dame and St. John’s University.
Fay pledged to keep pressing for the Hibernians to change their tune.
“We have to keep protesting discrimination wherever it occurs, and never settling for second-class citizenship,” said Fay. “I hope someday the spirit of this parade spreads to the Irish parades in the other boroughs, and I will stay with the struggle until, one day, we all will be together on Fifth Avenue.”
Weather Holds Off For Sunnyside St. Pat's Parade
The Queens Gazette
March 4, 2009
By Thomas Gogan
The 10th St. Patrick's Parade in Sunnyside occurred on a day when the forecast was for cold and wet weather. Though snow had been deposited on rooftops overnight, the white stuff held off during the parade, but cold weather remained. By the time the parade began, after some entertainment and words from politicians, it appeared the parade's spirit had become a bit chilled too, because the enthusiasm evident in most of the previous nine parades seemed to be forced at this one. Several of the musical and dance groups present in the past were there again, and the musicians were still expert and tuneful, the dancers still lively and enthusiastic. It looked, however, as if the parade's usual leaders were waiting for something more to arrive, and nothing did.
Still, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn put her heart and voice into her presentation, declaring the parade "bigger and stronger than ever". As she spoke from the stage mounted on a truck at the corner of Skillman Avenue and 43rd Street in Sunnyside, Mayor Michael Bloomberg appeared behind her. When Brendan Fay, founder of the parade, introduced him a short time later, the mayor, adding "Let's get serious!" for emphasis, said that any parade should be open to all. He was sounding the theme of inclusiveness that brought the Sunnyside parade into existence in 2000. His speech was brief, but when he finished, he took his place at the head of the parade and led it all the way up Skillman to 56th Street, over to Woodside Avenue and on to its conclusion, on the other side of Roosevelt Avenue.
Grand marshals of this 10th parade were Susan McKeown, a singer from Dublin who nevertheless referred to "my old neighborhood of Woodside" and Belfast's Terry George, a film director notable for "Hotel Rwanda". They and the others paid tribute to the late Frank Durkin, grand marshal of the first parade, who was present at later parades as long as possible.
Among the other political figures who spoke were several presumed mayoral candidates, City Comptroller William Thompson, whose voice was truly in campaign mode, and Congressmember Anthony Weiner. The most prominent of all candidates, whose right to run might face a challenge in the state legislature, not only led the parade but also had signs distributed that called him "Irish Mike Bloomberg".
There were several bagpipers and the six-player group De Jimbe continued to be the parade's musical heart and soul, but the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, not in sight when the parade began, might have been late because it was intent on bringing up the rear of the march anyway, amusing spectators and listeners as it proceeded. Keltic Dreams, a step-dancing group from P.S. 59 on Bathgate Avenue in The Bronx, has also become an inseparable part of the parade. A black and Latino troupe made choreographically Irish by their teacher, Christine Duggan, Keltic Dreams has become a crowd favorite. Also appearing again were students from the Niall O'Leary School of Dance. Making a first appearance was Tibetan Diaspora, a group of adolescent dancers from International H. S. on Thomson Avenue in Long Island City. Protests are shunned by the elders of the March 17 ceremony on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, but in Sunnyside and Woodside, the sentiment toward them is definitely one of inclusion. The cold but dry weather led Quinn to remark that God was with the parade. By the next morning, an overnight snowfall had put several inches on the ground and forced closing of the schools, leading to speculation that the council speaker must have felt divinely reassured.
Taking to the streets of New York with pride
An ‘all-inclusive’ alternative to New York’s St Patrick’s Day parade takes place in the city tomorrow
The Irish Times
Sat, Feb 28, 2009
By Conn Corrigan
Described by the Irish- American writer Pete Hamill as a parade “with a purpose”, St Pat’s For All is now in its 10th year and takes place tomorrow in Queens, New York.
The Queens parade offers an alternative to the St Patrick’s Day parade in Manhattan, which takes place on Fifth Avenue. Because of the exclusion of gay groups from the latter, for some Irish-Americans in New York, St Patrick’s Day has become more of a source of embarrassment than a point of celebration.
The Manhattan parade has seen some ugly scenes over the years as gay rights protesters clashed with the parade organizers, the Ancient Order of the Hibernians (AOH), a Catholic Irish-American fraternity. A Supreme Court ruling in 1995 found that, as a private group, the AOH could exclude whoever it wanted.
St Pat’s For All, however, describes itself an “inclusive” parade. Its website says that “this parade welcomes all to celebrate Irish heritage and culture regardless of race, gender, creed or sexual orientation”.
The parade organizers stress that theirs is not a gay pride parade. “Of course there are gay people in the parade,” says Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy, the parade co-chair. “But it is an Irish parade where everyone who wants to celebrate the Irish diaspora can join in.”
“The parade is a multicultural, multi-ethnic celebration of Ireland,” says Brendan Fay, also a co-chair. He points out that a group from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) will carry a banner of Frederick Douglass, the great abolitionist who visited Ireland on a lecture tour in 1845. And a group from the Mexican community will honour the San Patricios, a group of Irish immigrants who fought on the Mexican side during the US-Mexican war of 1846-1848.
To celebrate Barack Obama’s election, Stella O’Leary, the president of Irish-American Democrats, will speak at the parade. “It’s refreshing to know that there is an Irish group that is so inclusive,” says O’Leary. “I’ve been very impressed by all the ethnic groups involved.”
This year, the parade’s grand marshals are Terry George, the Oscar-nominated director and screenwriter from Belfast, and Susan McKeown, a New York-based singer and songwriter originally from Dublin.
The Keltic Dreams, a group of Irish dancers from an elementary school in a poor neighbourhood of the Bronx, were one of the highlights at last year’s St Pat’s For All. The group, made up of African-American and Latino children, has performed on The Late Late Show and was the subject of a documentary shown on RTÉ. Led by Caroline Duggan, an Irish dancing teacher from Dublin, the group will perform again at tomorrow’s parade.
Brendan Fay, a veteran gay rights campaigner, says he co-founded St Pat’s For All out of a sense of frustration at what was happening in Manhattan. “I remember telling a reporter years ago that there would be peace on the streets of Belfast before gays groups would be allowed to march down Fifth Avenue,” he says. He recalls getting a phone call from a woman from New Jersey whose gay son killed himself, thanking him for putting on a parade where people like her son could feel accepted.
A native of Drogheda, Fay(who met his husband at mass and has two degrees in theology) was involved in the dispute between a now-defunct group called the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization and the Ancient Order of the Hibernians during the 1990s over gay groups marching in the Fifth Avenue parade. In 1991, following a complaint from a parent, he was fired from his job as a religion teacher at a Catholic girls’ high school in Queens.
Organizers say marchers have been subjected to harassment over the years, although this has lessened in recent times. At the parade itself, there are always a handful of protesters who wave banners bearing legends such as “Shame” and “Sodomy”. One year, there was a gay man from Woodside, Queens, who was marching in the parade while his own mother was protesting on the sidewalk, waving a banner about the evils of homosexuality.
Some in the Irish-American community object to the use of “St Pat’s” in the parade title. “As the parade organizers boast, the march celebrates many religious, racial and ethnic groups, including a gay and lesbian contingent,” says Bill Donohue, the president of right-wing conservative organization the Catholic League. “This is fine by me, but as such it should be renamed the Multicultural Parade: it obviously has nothing to do with St Patrick. If it did, it wouldn’t have a Methodist or NAACP contingent, any more than the Salute to Israel Parade would allow a Methodist or NAACP contingent.”
Matt Nelligan, the New York State President of the Ancient Order of the Hibernians, says that while other St Patrick’s Day parades involve “public displays of Irish pride that everyone can buy into”, people should remember that “we don’t call it Irish-American cultural day, we call it St Patrick’s Day. And that’s in honour of a Catholic saint.”
However, Malachy McCourt, the writer (and brother of Frank), argues that the Fifth Avenue parade is “more of a religious procession than a parade”. McCourt, who was grand marshal at St Pat’s For All two years ago, says he will be in attendance at the Queens parade tomorrow.
“I will be strolling, rather than marching,” he adds.
© 2009 The Irish Times
Economy focus of conversation surrounding this year's St. Patrick's Day parades
The Daily News
February 26th, 2009
By Brendan Brosh
The two St. Patrick's Day parades in Queens are usually full of political intrigue, but this time around the economy is the main topic of conversation.
"This year, more than most, people are giving small donations," said Brendan Fay, a filmmaker who founded the St. Pat's For All Parade in Sunnyside in 1999. This year's festivities will be on Sunday.
"For ten years, we've learned how to operate a parade on a very low budget of around $5,000," Fay said.
Organizers of the Queens County St. Patrick's Day Parade in Rockaway, on March 7 this year, said fund-raising has been particularly tough since the economic meltdown.
"A lot of people are out of work," said Michael Benn, 60, who has been coordinating the parade for the past 19 years. "All the organizations are suffering."
Despite the economic woes, Benn said the parade will feature the same number of pipe bands as in 2008. "I think this year we'll get a larger viewing audience, because people want to enjoy themselves and not be worried about getting laid off," the County Limerick native said.
Mayor Bloomberg, who skipped the Rockaway parade in 2008, will serve as this year's grand marshal - and is expected to get an earful from locals. Some groups planned to protest against the mayor last year over the construction of a controversial local YMCA, but were let down when he opted not to attend.
"We're going to start calling him 'Manhattan Mike,'" said restaurant owner Dan Tubridy, who has been active in fighting the proposed elimination of the toll rebate on the Cross Bay Bridge. "The mayor has never stood with this community on any issue," Tubridy said.
The Queens parades are not the only Irish gatherings suffering in the ailing economy. The nation's second-oldest parade in Philadelphia was in jeopardy of being canceled until local donors pitched in $40,000.
The Sunnyside parade, which bills itself as the only inclusive parade for gay and lesbian groups, will be led by "Hotel Rwanda" film director Terry George and singer Susan McKeown. "We don't have any corporate sponsorship," said Fay, 50, a County Louth native. "But this is the land of immigrants, and we always find a way to pull through."
George, McKeown to Lead Queens Parade
February 25, 2009
By Cahir O'Doherty
Award winning film director Terry George and celebrated Irish singer Susan McKeown have been selected as the grand marshals for this year's inclusive Sunnyside Woodside St. Patrick's Day Parade in Queens on March 1 at 1:30 p.m.
George, director of the acclaimed films "Some Mother's Son" and "Hotel Rwanda" among others, told the Irish Voice, "This parade includes anyone who wants to participate and I fully support it. I'm a fan of equal rights and I'm also a fan of Susan McKeown's, so I'm looking forward to seeing her there too."
Unlike the main parade on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, the Queens parade allows gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Irish groups full participation under their own banners alongside pipers, puppets, politicians, folk bands, sports and religious groups.
Political leaders scheduled to march on the day include New York City Mayor Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Congressman Joseph Crowley.
Now in its 10th year as New York City's only inclusive St. Patrick's parade, the Queens parade begins at 43rd Street and Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside and ends at 61st Street in Woodside.
"We err on the side of hospitality," parade co-chair Brendan Fay told the Irish Voice. "It's in the best spirit of Ireland and it also reflects the daily reality of the most ethnically diverse borough of New York."
The grassroots, low budget parade begins with a special concert at the Irish Arts Center on Friday, February 27. Among the writers, actors, and musicians performing are Malachy McCourt, Peter Quinn, McKeown, Fiona Walsh, Kenny Lockwood, the Niall O'Leary School of Dance and the Keltic Dream Dancers, led by Caroline Duggan.
"It's such a wonderful event and it's hard to believe its already in its 10th year. It's amazing what they achieved in the last decade," singer McKeown told the Irish Voice.
"It's a parade that for me is representative of the real New York community. It's not just an Irish festival but also one that celebrates what the Irish have done in New York. They've gone to great lengths to make it a welcoming festival and all sorts of people take part. I'm very proud to have been invited to participate."
Irish groups joining the line of march include the O'Donovan Rossa Society, the Brehon Law Society, the Patrick Finucane memorial group, the Irish language group An Slua Nua, and several Irish dance schools.
Ian Mc Gowan of the Astoria Historical Society will lead a group honoring Irish American sports heroes of the 1908 Olympics. Also marching are boys and girls clubs, members of the FDNY Office of Recruitment and marching groups from Catholic and Protestant parish communities.
"With our banners we'll honor Irish saints like St. Brigid and St. Patrick and we'll also honor personal heroes. Human rights lawyers Paul O'Dwyer, Frank Durkan and the 9/11 chaplain, Father Mychal Judge, were all were supporters of the parade," said Fay.
NAACP members celebrating its centenary will carry the banner of Frederick Douglass, recalling his visit to Ireland during the Famine. The Mexican community will honor the San Patricios, the Irish immigrants who defended the Mexico in the U.S. Mexican War of 1846-1848. Peruvians participating will honor the life of Irish patriot Roger Casement for his humanitarian work in Africa and South America.
Parade sponsors include the WaMu Bank, Technical Career Institute, Skyline Hotel, United Federation of Teachers, Local 375/DC 37, Irish Arts Center, and Catholic gay group Dignity.
For more information and to register to march in the parade visit www.stpatsforall.com.
Luck's Forever Dublin
Gay City News
March 06, 2008
By Winnie McCroy
Residents of the Queens neighborhoods of Sunnyside and Woodside are way beyond having to choose between celebrating their Irish heritage or embracing their city's diversity. For the better part of a decade, the St. Pat's for All inclusive parade has become firmly established as one of the city's best examples of how New York's diverse communities can celebrate Irish history in a unified and festive fashion.
"What's very moving is the community activism and hope and commitment that made this inclusive parade possible... and now it's another traditional parade in this city," said parade co-chair Brendan Fay.
"It's the most progressive parade in New York; we welcome everybody," added parade co-chair Kathleen Walsh D'Arcy.
The annual event stands in stark contrast to the centuries-old March 17 walk down Fifth Avenue, organized by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, which bars participation by openly LGBT groups. Dating back to the mayoralty of David Dinkins, Fay was a leader of the to-date unsuccessful effort to integrate that parade. In recent years, Fay refocused his energies on building an inclusive tradition in his home borough.
Sunny skies greeted the many politicians, marchers, and viewers who lined up along Skillman Avenue on March 2 for what remains the only St. Patrick's Day parade in New York City that welcomes gays. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has regularly marched, was absent this year, but other elected officials present included City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, an out lesbian from Chelsea who was one of two grand marshals, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Comptroller William Thompson, Congressman Anthony Weiner, Assembly Members Michael Gianaris, Rory Lancman, Jose Peralta, and Audrey Pfeffer, Councilmembers Jim Gennaro, Eric Gioia, Melinda Katz, and David Weprin, and Democratic district leader Danny Dromm.
"I have known all the sacrifice and commitment Brendan has put in his work on behalf of the Irish community and the LGBT community, so to be honored and recognized in this way is always wonderful, but to be honored and recognized by Brendan at the only truly inclusive parade - one that really stands in tremendously sharp contrast to Fifth Avenue - it's a very exciting day," Quinn told Gay City News.
The speaker's fellow grand marshal, Pete Hamill, the Brooklyn journalist and author, echoed this sentiment, saying, "It's the greatest Irish parade anywhere, maybe except Cork, and one I wish the people that ran the Fifth Avenue parade would pay greater attention to, and understand the spirit of what it meant to be Irish long before we began arguing over interpretations of things from the 16th century... when being Irish was something to be proud of."
Although local politicians and activists have always been drawn to this inclusive parade, its acceptance by the diverse Sunnyside and Woodside neighborhoods, which include their fair share of conservative-minded residents, speaks volumes about its success. The anti-gay protestors present in earlier years were conspicuously absent, and crowds lined up along the route, despite the cold winter winds.
George Pabon, a native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, sat watching a soccer match while he awaited the arrival of his friends from HOLA, Hombre Latinos de Ambiente.
"I think every parade should include everyone - black, white, straight, or gay," said Pabon, adding that he no longer attends the St. Patrick's Day parade in Manhattan, given the exclusion of gays. Pabon credits the success of the Queens parade to having "the support of the neighborhood. The community has to work together to make it happen."
Dorothy Bukantz, who has lived on 47th Street for 12 years, said that many of her neighbors in this tight-knit community lean toward activism of some sort.
"Every year this parade gets better, and more inclusive," said Bukantz. "It became representative of the amazing diversity of Queens. Parades that only represent one portion aren't anywhere near as exciting as when you're standing on the street and you see something from your culture there."
Bukantz said she avoided the Fifth Avenue parade both because of the exclusionary policy and the drunken revelers, adding, "They should clean up their act, and include everybody. But we should keep our parade anyway, because it's something different. It's not a gay parade, it's everybody's parade."
Alice Farrell has lived in the area for nearly seven years, and noted, "More and more people come out every year and embrace it. You see more diverse groups marching, and it's just a fabulous statement to the inclusiveness that they've tried to foster among all the people in the community."
As a young child tugged at her sweater, Farrell added that as an openly gay woman, she does not support the parade down Fifth Avenue, because they will not allow her to march openly under a banner.
College Point resident Kim Boyd stood at the sidelines with her infant son and mother, Margaret, watching the parade for the first time. Boyd said that they had made the trek across Queens to begin exposing her son to these cultural events, and considered the inclusive nature of the parade important. Although she said she would like to take her son to the Fifth Avenue parade, the raucous crowds made it a less than ideal environment.
Jenny Turpin of nearby Elmhurst said that this would be her Irish husband's first St. Patrick's Day parade since he moved to America eight years ago. Although they appreciated the inclusive aspect of the parade, what compelled them to attend - and kept them from the Fifth Avenue parade - was that the event is geared more toward community, and less toward public intoxication.
Another first-year attendee, Pat Rhodes, traveled across the city from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, after reading about the parade in the newspaper.
"I can't understand why they got flagged from the New York City parade in the first place," Rhodes said. "I'm from Philadelphia, and our parade is very different; everyone's welcome."
Still, this corner of Queens has some strides to make toward complete inclusion.
"People throw up barriers still to this day in this neighborhood. [They] are afraid of gay issues, and that's too bad. Even when I'm at the local pub, I'll hear people belittling the parade," said Patrick Linghenry, a resident of 47th Street and Skillman Avenue. "Some people, they're still afraid. I think we have a way to go before people feel comfortable."
"Sunnyside Gardens has always been a very diverse community, ethnically, economically, age-wise, and that spawns all kinds of multicultural celebrations and tolerance among different ethnic groups," countered his neighbor, Marc Crawford Leavitt. "This parade is very welcomed by folks because it's multicultural, and accepts gays. While the Catholic Church has a very strong influence in this neighborhood, it's within the context of the tolerance that this neighborhood carries. For the most part, it's very welcome."
"This parade has changed a lot of attitudes in the city," Fay stated. "For years, protestors being arrested was the annual story around the parade. But this parade, which began with the hopes and dreams of people in Queens, has grown. And it's not just about tagging along LGBT contingents... but literally about rethinking what cultural events and parades are in this city. We weren't just a flash in the pan, reacting to something on Fifth Avenue. This parade is a good that has come out of an experience of discrimination."
The Prides of March
The St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Queens welcomes gays. In Manhattan, no such luck.
Mar. 06, 2008
By Erline Andrews
Samantha Kavanagh stepped back to show off her green and white pinafore dress, which she wore because it seemed “most Irish.” Kavanagh, a transgender woman, was part of the 1,500 or so people taking part in the ninth-annual Queens St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Sunday, March 2. It was the second time Kavanagh attended and her excitement was obvious. She flitted about with an Irish flag and a rainbow boa, soaking up the scene with a hand-held camera. She eagerly shared her joy with journalists.
“I feel so welcome here,” she said with a wide smile. “I feel more welcome here than I do in Ireland. They don’t accept people like me in Ireland.”
The parade, affectionately known as St. Pat's for All, has become not only a celebration of Irish culture but also of Queens’ diversity: tartan kilts brush again brightly colored Peruvian dresses, and school children dance among senior citizens.
But the parade is also a reminder of the thing it was created to fight: intolerance. The first St. Pat’s for All in 2000 was held reaction to the Manhattan's parade, which excludes gay groups.
As an openly gay official and an Irish-New Yorker, Quinn finds herself in the middle of the St. Patrick’s Day flap annually. Last year, she snubbed the Manhattan parade to join an inclusive one in Dublin, Ireland.
This year, she was a grand marshal of the St. Pat’s for All event.
“As great as today is,” she said Sunday, “it is always tinged with sadness because everyone who is marching today would not be able to march on Fifth Avenue.”
So inclusive is St. Pat’s for All that among the procession was a group—The Radical Homosexual Agenda—protesting Quinn's refusal to intervene in changing the city's rules of assembly (groups of 50 or more are required by law to get a permit).
“We err on the side of hospitality,” said parade organizer Brendan Fay, explaining RHA’s participation. “We seek to find a way to welcome people rather than to keep people out.” He added that he nevertheless wished the RHA had chosen another forum to make their point.
The parade, which goes from 43rd Street and Skillman Avenue to 61st Street and Woodside Avenue in Sunnyside, attracts a contingent of groups which march as much in support of St. Pat's for All as against the March 17 parade along Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. Some of this weekend’s participants would never take part in the latter.
“It’s a disgrace that discrimination is allowed to continue,” said Meredith, one of the musicians in a Brooklyn-based marching band called the Rude Mechanical Orchestra. She didn’t give her last name. “It’s important to be here, where everybody is included, celebrating Irish culture,” she said.
Yet many groups refuse invitations to participate in St. Pat's for All precisely because of its openness. Anti-gay protesters have even picketed the event. Fay said he’d offer them tea and shake they hands, saying, “The expression of free speech is a gift of New York.”
The attitude typifies St. Pat’s for All.
“The parade reflects a spirit of generosity that is unique among parades in this city,” Fays said.
Queens St. Patrick’s Day Parade To Be Led by Hamill, Quinn
Only New York parade to accept gay participants
February 27, 2008
By Maureen Sullivan
“We are especially proud to honor Pete Hamill and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn” said Parade co-chairman Brendan Fay
Councilwoman Christine Quinn and renowned journalist and author Pete Hamill have been named joint grand marshals of the St. Patrick's Parade & Irish Fair in Queens on March 2.
First held in 2000, this event sets itself apart from the other marches that take place during this season since it is the only New York City parade that does not exclude members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community from participating. Better known as the "St. Pats for All" parade, the name reflects not only its all-inclusive ethos but its desire to openly welcome and encourage everyone to share in the spirit of the day.
Parade co-chairman Brendan Fay said parade organizers are proud to welcome Quinn and Hamill.
“We are especially proud to honor Pete Hamill and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn,” said Fay. “Pete Hamill has that Irish way with words about him which fire and inspire. They represent a heritage celebrating the Irish contribution to the worlds of literature and politics.”
Parade co-chairwoman Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy said the parade aims to welcome all in the Queens community. “I feel privileged to be part of the Sunnyside-Woodside ‘St. Pat's for All Parade,’ a celebration that embraces every person and honors our amazing heritage,” she said.
Fay stressed the aim of the parade is to celebrate the diversity found in Queens.
“We celebrate Irish heritage and culture,” Fay said. “Whether fleeing poverty or in the pursuit of dreams, the Irish Diaspora has scattered to all corners of the globe. So, diverse communities of New Yorkers gather in Queens to celebrate Ireland. Whether Latino, West Indian, Choctaw, Protestant, Catholic, gay or straight the Irish story brings us together.”
Other supporters of the parade include Rep. Anthony Weiner, Comptroller Bill Thompson, Assembly Member Jose Peralta and a number of other Council members.
A pre-parade concert will take place at the Irish Arts Center on Friday, Feb. 29 when Hamill and Quinn will also be presented with parade sashes. Malachy McCourt, Fiona Walsh, the Keltic Dream Dancers, musicians and the Niall O’Leary school dancers will provide entertainment. Tickets are available at or by calling 212 -868-4444.
The parade begins at 1:30 p.m. in Sunnyside at 43rd and Skillman Avenue to 61st and Woodside. To register, visit their Web site: or call 718-721-2780. The Irish ArtsCenter is located at 553 West 51st St.
Quinn, Hamill To Lead Queens Inclusive Parade
February 27, 2008
Irish Echo Staff
New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and writer Pete Hamill are lined up to lead the March Inclusive St. Patrick's Parade in Queens this Sunday March 2. Before the parade there will be a pre-parade concert at the Irish Arts Center in Manhattan on Friday night, Feb. 29.
What will be the 9th annual "St. Pat's For All Parade" will begin at 43rd & Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside at 1. 30 p.m. and wind its way to 61st and Woodside.
The parade is the only march in the New york area that includes gay marching contingents.
The 2008 grand marshals Quinn and Hamill will be presented with parade sashes at the Friday night concert at the Arts Center, 553 W.51st Street. The concert features Malachy McCourt, stand up comedy with Fiona Walsh, Caroline Duggan & the Keltic Dream Dancers from PS 59, The popular Niall O'Leary school dancers are also no the bill.
Musicians from Ireland include Brian Fleming, Gwenn Frinn and Sean Millar. Donation is $35 and tickets are available from smarttix.com
"We celebrate Irish heritage and culture. Whether fleeing poverty or in the pursuit of dreams the Irish Diaspora have scattered to all corners of the globe," said parade co-chair and founder, Brendan Fay.
"So we gather on March 2nd in Queens as diverse communities of New Yorkers to celebrate Ireland. Whether Latino, West Indian, Choctaw, Protestant, Catholic, jew gay or straight, the Irish story bring us together," said Fay.
"We are especially proud to honor Pete Hamill and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn," said Fay.
"When Speaker Quinn, who speaks proudly of her Irish heritage and is openly gay, marches in the St. Patrick's parades throughout the city she open doors. She challenges years of exclusion and ignorance. She is a real bridge builder," said Fay.
Sunday's parade will also honor IPEC, the Irish Parades Emergency Committee which was founded ten years ago by New Yorkers who used their vacations to travel and monitor parades in Northern Ireland.
A number of area politicians have been invited to march and they include Congressman Anthony Weiner, New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson, Assembly Member Jose Peralta, and many New York City Council members.
Parade sponsors comes from businesses, unions and labor leaders, including Commerce Bank, Local 1199, United Federation of Teachers, Local 375/DC 37, and from Lavender & Green Alliance, The Irish Arts Center and the Catholic group, Dignity/NY.
"I feel privileged to be part of the Sunnyside-Woodside St. Pat's for All Parade, a celebration that embraces every person and honors our amazing heritage," said parade co-chair, Kathleen Walsh D'Arcy.
"As a Queens resident, I attended many of the parades and, last year, decided to actively support this great parade as organizer. Children are the stars of this parade, dancing, singing and celebrating the March season of Irish pride."
"Our parade also casts light on forgotten corners of Irish history and heritage," added Fay. We have banners honoring Irish justice and peace pioneers, St. Brigid, St. Patrick, Dan and Phil Berrigan and Mother Jones. New banners this year will honor the memory of Frank Durkan and Fr. Mychal Judge. We welcome Hibernians, parishes, individuals with their county or community banners," Fay said.
Information and registration details for the parade are available at or call (718)721-2780.
A Parade Truly for All in Sunnyside
NY Daily News
February 26, 2008
By Denis Hamill
This is the parade the Irish should celebrate.
The St. Pat's for All Parade and Festival in Sunnyside on Sunday welcomes one and all to celebrate Irish culture. There will be no banishment of anyone because of her or his sexual preference, political affiliation or religious beliefs.
This parade that organizers describe as a mix of "street theater, puppets, stilt walkers, bands, ethnic and community groups, labor, religious and political contingents, banners, dancers and youth groups" is open to all New Yorkers, which means the whole human family.
The parade starts at 2 p.m. at 43rd St. and Skillman Ave. and ends at 61st St. and Woodside Ave.
Full disclosure here: Along with New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a proud Irishwoman and lesbian, my brother, Pete Hamill, is one of the grand marshals.
But the parade was started by a fella named Brendan Fay who got a little tired being hauled off in "paddy wagons" on Paddy's Day over the years when he showed up to march as a proudly gay Irishman.
"Some people might have given up," says Fay. "But I'm of the type who thought there must be a St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York that simply said, 'Put on the kettle, everybody's welcome.' I went to Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island, and the odd thing was I'd go to the Masses, and the breakfasts no problem. But then the parade organizers would have the police lift me off the avenue if I marched in the parades."
After being arrested in 1999 Fay decided he was going to organize his own parade that said everyone was welcome. "Catholic, Protestant, gay, straight, all of us together," he says. "I called loads of Irish groups whom I thought would be thrilled to participate. Many said they wanted nothing to do with this parade."
Then one day while he was sitting in a Chilean restaurant in Woodside, the owner asked Fay what he was up to. "I told him we were trying to organize a St. Patrick's Day parade that said everyone was welcome," Fay says. "He took me into the kitchen and up on the wall was a picture of Bernard O'Higgins, the first president of Chile. He asked if he could have a Chilean group in the parade. I said, of course!"
Soon Fay was signing up Mexican groups representing the celebrated San Patricio Brigade that defended the Mexicans in the U.S.-Mexican War of 1846-48, a Peruvian group carrying the banner of Irish patriot Roger Casement, a group of Black and Latino Irish step dancers from the Bronx.
"And the first donation for our parade was a check from Mychal Judge, the priest who was the FDNY chaplain who died on 9/11," says Fay. "Father Judge agreed that whether you are Irish by birth, heritage or simply affection, this is the parade for you."
This year the parade will have marchers from Muslim organizations, the Yiddish Sons of Erin, District Council 37, Local 375, Local 1199, the UFT, The Central Labor Council, Catholic organizations like Catholic Worker, Dignity New York and the Protestant Episcopal Society of St. Francis.
Plus the Niall O'Leary School of Irish Dance, Lavender and Green Alliance, Irish Arts Center, the Brehon Law Society, The Keltic Dreamers from PS 59 in the Bronx, and the All City Marching Band.
"I haven't marched in the St. Patrick's Day Parade on Fifth Ave. in Manhattan since they decided to name it a Catholic parade in 1993," my brother, Pete, told me. "The reason for it was to keep the gays out. And as someone who has been back and forth to Northern Ireland, and whose parents are from Belfast, I knew that this statement making the traditional St. Patrick's Day Parade a Catholic parade, as if Irishness and Catholicism were synonyms, could get people killed in the North of Ireland. It also underlined the sense of division in a way that these malletheads hadn't thought about very hard."
So Pete never again marched in the St. Patrick's Day Parade down Fifth Ave., organized by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, which he calls the "Order of Ancient Hibernians."
"But this St. Pat's for All parade is just that, open to everybody," he says. "That means it would be open to William Butler Yeats, to Wolf Tone, to John Hewitt, Derek Mahon, to Sean O'Casey. To all kinds of people who were Irish and Protestant and otherwise. Not just straight Irish Catholics. That tradition has to be honored if we are going to ever end the 16th Century in Northern Ireland. And above all, this parade would have been open to Oscar Wilde, who was Protestant and homosexual."
There will be a post-parade celebration from 3-5 p.m. at a place appropriately called Saints & Sinners at 59-12 Roosevelt Ave., Woodside.
All are welcome.
March to Ireland
Quinn nixes Manhattan parade for Dublin's gay-friendly event
NY Blade, March 09, 2007
By Trenton Straube
NEW YORK (AP) City Council Speaker Christine Quinn plans to march in Dublin, Ireland's St. Patrick's Day parade this year, again snubbing the March 17 New York City parade in Manhattan because its organizers refuse to allow gay and lesbian groups to march in the parade.
Quinn, an Irish-American who is the city's first openly gay council speaker, is heading to the Dublin parade at the personal invitation of officials there.
"My participation in Dublin's parade is also an opportunity to march openly as a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community, something we have not been able to do in New York City," Quinn said in a statement last Sunday. "I hope my participation in the Dublin march will send a message about the importance of inclusion."
Not all St. Patrick's Day celebrations in New York City are closed to LGBT marchers. The eighth-annual St. Pat's for All parade and Irish fair took place last weekend in Queens.
Speaker Quinn marched in that parade, as did Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Comptroller William C. Thompson, Congressman Joseph Crowley, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, Assemblymembers Jose Peralta and Michael Ginaris and Council Members Helen Sears, David Weprin, Eric Gioia and Melinda Katz.
Quinn announced her plan to march in Dublin during her speech at the St. Pat's for All parade.
"For folks who don't know, the Dublin St. Patrick's Day parade has always been inclusive and open to everyone who wants to march," she told the crowd in Queens.
"I want to say how excited we are to have two great opportunities to celebrate all members of the Irish community, including openly LGBT Irish people," Quinn added.
Mayor Bloomberg also addressed the marchers. He described the St. Pat's for All parade as "a chance for the city to pull together to show its diversity, to show that everybody in this city really is equal."
The St. Pat's for All parade honoree was Bronx public school teacher Caroline Duggan. An immigrant from Dublin, she is the founder and director of Keltic Dream Dancers, an after-school program that brings Irish music and dance to the mostly Latino and African-American students at P.S. 59. Those students participated in last weekend's parade.
In addition, District leader and Queens teacher Daniel Dromm marched with his students from P.S. 199. "I was thrilled with the Queens boys and girls clubs who marched with their homemade signs", said co-chair Barbara Mohr.
"We gathered as diverse communities of New Yorkers to celebrate Ireland, whether Latino, West Indian, Choctaw, Protestant, Catholic, gay or straight, the Irish story brings us together", said Brendan Fay, the parade co-chair and founder.
The parade began at 43rd Street and Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside; it ended at 61st Street and Woodside Avenue. A sold out pre-parade concert Friday night at the Irish Arts Center featured author Malachy McCourt, songwriter Kenny Lockwood, comedienne Fiona Walsh and traditional Irish musicians Brian Fleming and Gwen Frinn.
"Once again our St. Pat's for All parade brought the mayor of New York, musicians from Ireland, and a multitude of ages and races for a delightful celebration of Ireland," Fay added via a press statement.
The Manhattan Parade, The New York City parade that marches up Manhattan's Fifth Avenue is organized by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, who have denied permission to gays and lesbians to march under their own banner since 1991. The group has said it does not want to politicize the event.
Quinn tried to broker a deal with the group last year after taking office as speaker in January. But it didn't work, so she boycotted the event as she had in her previous years as a council member. She's expected to be joined in Ireland by other members of the New York City Council, as well as the lord mayor of Dublin, the speaker of the Lower House of the Irish Parliament, and Dublin City Council members. During her upcoming trip, Quinn also expects to speak about the need for "a lasting peace in Northern Ireland," her office said. The Conference for American Ireland Relations will be footing the bill for the New York council trip to Ireland, according to Quinn's office.
Trenton Straube contributed to this story.
St. Pat's Parade Draws Diverse Queens Crowd
March 8, 2007
By John Tozzi
A few flurries of snow did not chill the spirit streaming down Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside Sunday during the eighth annual St. Pat's for All parade. If the crowds lining the streets of Sunnyside and Woodside were sparser than in previous years, perhaps it was the cold air or the ongoing weekend closures of the No. 7 subway that kept them away. But for the many who did attend, the St. Pat's parade that organizers boast is as diverse as the borough of Queens did not disappoint.
"You don't have to be Irish to enjoy the parade," said Karim Simmons, a Bayside resident who wore Irish flags of green, orange and white makeup on his cheeks and shamrocks made of green pipe cleaners on his head. "Everybody from all walks of life can enjoy the parade," he said.
St. Pat's for All began in 2000 when organizers wanted a celebration in which gay groups barred from the Manhattan parade on Fifth Avenue could march. It has since become an institution in the Irish heart of Queens, winding from 43rd Street and Skillman Avenue to 61st Street and Woodside Avenue. Mayor Michael Bloomberg attended, as he does each year, along with a host of other electeds: U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), Comptroller William Thompson, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, Assembly members Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights) and Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), and Council members Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside), Helen Sears (D-Jackson Heights), David Weprin (D-Hollis), James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) and Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills).
Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), the first openly gay person to lead the Council, told the crowd she would boycott the March 17 parade in Manhattan, which still bars gay groups. Instead, Quinn said, she accepted an invitation to another St. Patrick's Day parade - in Dublin.
Young dancers from PS 59 in the Bronx were the stars of the show, and they epitomized the parade's spirit of diversity. The students step dancing from the parade's grand marshal, Dublin native Caroline Duggan. The troupe is going to perform in Ireland in May.
"They really reflect our theme, our message and the spirit of the parade," said parade founder Brendan Fay. "There's these New York kids, you know, African-American and Latino, who just love Irish music and Irish dance."
For some along the route, the pipers and drummers and Irish dancers were a welcome surprise.
"It's beautiful. I really love it," said Faiza Qureshi, who popped out of a Laundromat on Skillman to see what the fuss was about. She did not expect a St. Patrick's celebration so early, she said, because the festivities normally coincide with her birthday on March 17. Qureshi, who moved to Sunnyside from India 11 years ago, said the inclusive spirit of the parade - with not just Irish but immigrants from everywhere - appealed to her.
"New York is a city of immigrants from all over the world," she said.
The parade is a clearinghouse for political causes local and national, from the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform to Sunnyside Gardens locals opposed to the plan to make the neighborhood a historic district.
The event is not without detractors. A pair of protesters stood silently on the corner of Skillman and 47th Street, holding a giant black banner that read in orange letters: "Sacrilege."
But the grim sign did not faze the marchers. A pair in full leprechaun garb jumped in front of the banner as the procession passed, smiling broadly, green balloons in hand, and stood for photographs.
"I came out because there are gay people in New York who aren't allowed to march" in the Manhattan parade, said Scott Williams, a Sunnyside resident watching the procession. "I live in Queens," he said. "I believe in diversity."
Reach reporter John Tozzi by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext. 174.
Council Speaker to March in Dublin Irish Voice
March 8, 2007
By Cahir O'Doherty
(New York City ) Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who refuses to march in the annual Fifth Avenue St. Patrick's Day Parade as long as it bans gay groups, has announced that she will march with her father in the St. Patrick's Day parade in Dublin.
Quinn, who is the city's first openly gay council speaker, is heading to the Dublin parade at the personal invitation of Irish officials. Her decision to participate highlights the fact that the Dublin parade does not ban gay groups.
Speaking at New York's only all-inclusive St. Patrick's Day parade in Sunnyside last Sunday she told the Irish Voice, "I'm marching in two inclusive parades this year, the Sunnyside parade and the Dublin parade. In both parades my participation is an opportunity to march openly as a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, something we have not been able to do in New York City."
In Dublin, Quinn will march with the lord mayor, members of the Dail (Irish Parliament) and Dublin City Council members.
The New York City Parade Committee has refused to allow gay groups to march since the issue arose in the early 1990s, and a series of court decisions have come down in their favor.
Quinn made her announcement to applause from participants in the Sunnyside parade. "I hope my participation in the Dublin march will send a message about the importance of inclusion," she said.
Speakers at the parade included New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who found himself eclipsed on the day by Quinn's dramatic announcement. Other speakers included prominent Irish American attorney and former acting president of Division Five of the Ancient Order of the Hibernians, Cody McCone. Addressing the crowd before the parade, McCone said, "I can explain my participation here today very simply, our constitution says that we are all created equal." McCone, of the O'Dwyer and Bernstein law firm, celebrated the commitment to social justice of his friend and former parade honoree, the late Frank Durkan. He also acknowledged the participation of Durkan's widow Monica, who was in attendance.
The parade doubled in size this year, and hundreds of observers filled out along the route to applaud participants. Irish groups in the parade included the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform and the Irish American Unity Conference.
Brendan Fay, the parade co-organizer, was delighted by the increased attendance. "No one will ever know what happens behind the scenes when calls are made by influential people to try and prevent participants from showing up. That chilling effect works on some but as you can see not on everyone this is our largest parade ever," he said.
The biting wind blowing in from the East River did nothing to dampen the spirits of Keltic Kids, the brightly dressed young Irish dance troupe from the Bronx. Dance teacher and parade honoree Caroline Duggan led them expertly through their paces along the route. Their skill and dexterity was matched only by Niall O'Leary's equally eye catching Irish dance troupe.
As happens every year, a group of protestors held up hand written sings along the route that read "Stop Blaspheming Our Lord," and "Fry Mumia Jamal." But this year, perhaps in response to the icy wind, their numbers had dropped. Responding to them, Fay insisted the protestors had got it wrong in any case. "This is not a gay parade," said the 47-year-old activist and filmmaker. "It is an all-inclusive parade. The point of it is that we don't discriminate against anyone. We're all welcome to celebrate our Irish heritage here."
A St. Pat's Parade for Everyone
Metro New York March 5, 2007
By Patrick Arden
(Sunnyside) The wind was frigid at 43rd and Skillman yesterday, but you'd never know that by looking at Brendan Fay. Dressed in a checked sports jacket, gray slacks and tennis shoes, Fay darted among the marchers in his eighth annual St. Pat's for All Parade, which bills itself as "New York City's inclusive St. Patrick's Day Parade." A wide range of groups were included, too: marching bands, Mexican folk dancers, dog owners, Veterans for Peace and a collection of artists who dressed up in furry animal suits.
Though parade co-chair Barbara Mohr wore a button that read "straight but not narrow," she wanted one thing to be perfectly clear. "This is an inclusive parade," said Mohr, a 73-year-old widow and former nun. "It is not a gay parade." Yet the Queens event was founded in reaction to the refusal of Manhattan's St. Patrick's Day Parade to allow gay marchers. "We were so frustrated," Mohr recalled. "Then we decided it would be better to start a celebration where everybody could come who wanted to come."
Fay arrived in Jamaica, Queens, in 1984, planning to study theology at St. John's University. The 47-year-old is now a documentary filmmaker and activist. "I felt in my heart that the city simply needed a celebration that would be open and welcoming to all who wanted to celebrate Ireland and its great cultural heritage," explained Fay, who pointed out that many of the parade's seemingly disparate groups were "in some way honoring the Irish diaspora across the world." For example, he said, the dancers in the Ballet Quetzalcoatl de Brooklyn are perennials, coming up from Sunset Park every year to honor the Batallan de San Patricio, a battalion of Texas militia who deserted and fought alongside the Mexican army in the 1846-'48 Mexican-American War. "You know, the founder of the Ecuadorian navy was from my own home town of Drogheda, Thomas Charles Wright," Fay said. "The Irish wound up in the Caribbean as slaves and working on the sugar plantations. Roger Casement went to the Congo and was an Irish patriot and gay man. So, to me, it makes sense that we all march together."
When the parade finished in Woodside, Fay went back to greeting people. Two had traveled all the way from Ireland. In a pub called Saints and Sinners, a friend asked Fay about the few protesters who lined the route, holding signs scrawled "Stop Blaspheming Our Lord" and even "Old Hippies." "We've always had a handful," said Fay. "I wish I had cups of tea to hand them. I know what it's like to protest in the cold." City Council Speaker Christine Quinn won't march again in the Fifth Avenue parade. She's been invited to march in Dublin. Unlike in Manhattan, the Dublin parade allows lesbian and gay groups.
Place for Council Speaker in St. Patrick's Parade?
NY Newsday March 10, 2006
By Bryan Virasami
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn was on the fence Thursday as to whether she would participate in next week's St. Patrick's Day Parade, which excludes gay and lesbian groups, according to a spokeswoman. Quinn, who is Irish and openly gay, in the past has condemned the parade for barring Irish gays. She was among a group of activists who were arrested seven years ago while taking part in a protest against the annual parade on Fifth Avenue. Quinn's spokeswoman, Maria Alvarado, said Thursday that the speaker has not decided whether to march. "We will be making a decision by the 17th," she said, referring to the day of the parade. Alvarado declined to discuss whether Quinn has raised the question of gay and lesbian groups taking part in next Friday's parade with event organizers.
Brendan Fay, co-chairman of the St. Patrick's Parade in Queens, which was founded as an inclusive parade, said he was hopeful Quinn could pave the way for gays and lesbians to march openly at the Fifth Avenue event. Fay said he would surprised if she marched without seeking changes in policy. "I think people are reflecting on the issue and on Christine Quinn and whether she marches or not," said Fay, a gay activist. "In a way, she embodies and raises the question for all of us."
A spokesman for the Manhattan parade, organized by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, could not be reached for comment Thursday. One parade organizer said that traditionally the City Council speaker is among the elected officials invited to participate and that the parade allows anyone to march as long as they are not part of an organized gay group with a banner. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to march in the Fifth Avenue parade, as he has done annually.
Guest Op Ed: These Irish Eyes Won't Be Smiling On St. Pat's Day
Courier Life March 9, 2006
By Christopher Murray
The afternoon of Sunday, March 19th will mark the thirty-first anniversary of the Brooklyn Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, a festive and spirited showing of Irish pride and community cohesion.
In the over ten years I’ve lived on Bartel Pritchard Square in the Windsor Terrace section of South Park Slope where the parade starts, I have never attended the parade. Although I wear the map of Ireland on my face, love the stories of my wild and wonderful Irish uncles, and cherish the literature and traditions of the Emerald Isle, I have neither marched in nor watched the parade. And while I represent my community and neighboring Sunset Park on Community Board 7 and am active in civic organizations all over the wonderful borough of Brooklyn, this year will not be any different. I won’t march for the simple reason that I’m not welcome in the parade. As one of the many, many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Brooklyn, I remain excluded from this community celebration of my ethnicity which welcomes groups to march in the parade by invitation only and pointedly refuses all overtures from Irish gay and lesbian groups to join the festivities. In fact, parade organizers have in the recent past added insult to exclusion, with one main parade organizer in 2003 confronting would-be gay participants to say “You’re not marching in this parade. You’re fags and you’re gay and you’re not marching.”
Things have even turned uglier in previous years. Peaceful protests at the parade culminated one year with the arrest of several gay protesters including gay Irish activist Brendan Fay and District Leader Alan Fleishman who joined the march at Bartel Pritchard Square. While the Brooklyn parade’s exclusionary practices still sting, the LGBT community in Brooklyn is heartened that the vast majority of politicians representing the borough decline to march in the parade in solidarity with the idea that discrimination and prejudice based on sexual orientation or gender identity is a relic of the past. And while the Fifth Avenue St. Patrick’s Day parade down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan remains aligned with the Roman Catholic church’s sadly intolerant position on homosexuality – all the sadder for that institution’s recent and continuing scandals regarding sexual abuse and misconduct among the clergy – the silver lining shown in our sister borough of Queens this past weekend at the St. Pat’s for All Parade in Sunnyside.
This inclusive parade had as its theme this year “Cherishing all the Children of the Nation Equally” and welcomed all comers including Mayor Bloomberg, openly gay City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and noted Irish author of Angela’s Ashes Frank McCourt along with his brothers Malachy, Michael and Alfie.
While I defer to none in recognition of the pre-eminence of Brooklyn as the most magnificent of the boroughs of New York City, I admit to being jealous of Queens one day a year when they outstrip us in terms of their showing of tolerance, generosity and panache in regards to how they celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. I look forward to the year hopefully soon when cold hearts unclench and I can march alongside my neighbors who love Brooklyn as much as I do and who share Walt Whitman’s notion that “a great city is that which has the greatest men and women” as we find togetherness and a sense of shared community in our identities, and not difference and separation.
Christopher Murray is the Co-President of Lambda Independent Democrats, Brooklyn’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Political Club. For more information, go to www.lidbrooklyn.org.
©Courier-Life Publications 2006
Gay and Irish, Quinn Faces Tough Choice Over Parade
The Sun March 7, 2006
By Jill Gardiner
Seven years ago, Christine Quinn was arrested for protesting the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade because it does not allow gay and lesbian groups to march. The newly elected City Council speaker, who is openly gay and Irish, has a difficult decision this year as leader of a body that historically has participated in the Fifth Avenue event. Yesterday, the chairman of the parade, John Dunleavy, said Ms.. Quinn is "more than welcome to march" and that he believes she would do so as the head of the council's delegation. "I have the utmost faith that she will respect the views of the parade and we will respect her, and that she'll march up and lead the City Council as speakers have done in past years," Mr. Dunleavy said during a telephone interview. Ms. Quinn in the past called for elected officials to sit out the parade until it allows gay and lesbian groups to march.
After gaining national recognition as the first female and the first openly gay council member to be elected speaker, some are wondering whether she'll try to broker a compromise with parade organizers. A spokeswoman for Ms. Quinn, Maria Alvarado, said yesterday that the speaker "certainly hopes to be able to march, but there are no formal negotiations at this time." Ms. Alvarado said they would see what happens between now and March 17. Mr. Dunleavy said he has not talked to the speaker, but that individuals have been free to march in the parade for some time - as long as they aren't part of an organized gay group marching with a banner. Mr. Dunleavy also tried to soften the parade's past position by pointing out that it doesn't ban gays and lesbians, but simply does not allow any advocacy group.
In 2004, one parade sponsor, Boru Irish vodka, was kicked out of the parade after it had sponsored a gay-friendly parade in Queens a week earlier.
A gay activist, Brendan Fay, who was arrested with Ms. Quinn in 1999 while protesting the parade, predicted there would be "many conversations" and "some deep soul searching" in the coming days as the speaker contemplates what to do. He also said that it would be "quite a step forward" for the parade organizers to have Ms. Quinn participate given that she is the most prominent gay leader in the city. Mr. Fay, a founder of the Queens parade, said participation by Ms. Quinn could have profound implications and that she "could be the leader who moves the ongoing conflict toward a resolution."
"I remember the arrests, the animosity, and the deeply held prejudices that continue to have ramifications in the Irish community and in the gay community, and it always resurfaces at this time of year," he said. Still, Mr. Fay expressed mixed feelings, saying that exclusion of gay groups is "tragic" and that nobody should have to hide their identity when they march. His comments highlight the delicate nature of the parade for all elected officials.
Mayor Bloomberg has come under fire from gay groups in the past for participating. Ms. Quinn's predecessor, Gifford Miller, skipped the parade. Ms. Quinn, however, is in a unique position, given that she has spent much of her career fighting for gay and lesbian equality. That could give her more leeway in setting a new precedent.
A professor of public affairs at Baruch College, David Birdsell, said Ms. Quinn's position as speaker could ramp up the pressure on parade organizers to loosen their restrictions. He said it would be difficult for her to march in the very parade she's protested unless the organizers make changes. "It's tricky," he said." If it's framed as Chris marches, but she does so under our relatively restrictive rules, than it looks like she capitulated to the niceties of position. On the other hand if it is the parade that muzzles itself ... that is something that looks much more like a compromise."
The McCourts Take The Lead
NY Newsday January 31, 2006
By Dennis Duggan
The Brothers McCourt aren't big on parades and especially on the biggest and oldest of them all, the daylong St. Patrick's Day Parade up Fifth Avenue. "Angela's Ashes" author Frank McCourt once dismissed the grand march, saying that "if you threw a bomb at this ghastly assemblage, you would wipe out the cream of Irish mediocrity." So why then, have the McCourts - Malachy, Frank, Mike and Alphie - agreed to lead this year's inclusive parade in Queens? Outspoken gay activist Brendan Fay tells me that "We had a long list of names to consider and we agreed Malachy was our man. He has always supported us. When I called to tell him, he said he would march, but that he wanted his brothers to march with him and so they will." "There will be an avalanche of McCourts at the parade," says Malachy McCourt, 74, now appearing in a one-man show, "You Don't Have to be Irish," at the Irish Repertory Theatre on West 22nd Street. I asked Malachy why he had agreed to lead the much smaller Queens parade. He quoted the late City Council President Paul O'Dwyer, who told him that the larger Fifth Avenue affair "is guided solely by the question, 'Who can we keep out of this parade?'"
For Fay and Ellen Duncan, an Irish immigrant and a working nurse, who co-founded the Queens parade in Sunnyside and Woodside seven years ago, the question is not who can be kept out of the parade, but who can be brought into it.
"We celebrate diversity," says Fay, "and so do Malachy and his brothers Frank and Alphie and Michael."
Fay, who is openly gay, decided to found the smaller parade in response to the systematic exclusion of a gay pride contingent along Fifth Avenue.
Despite the prestigious honorees, not everyone in Queens welcomes the annual parade in their borough, which wends its way through once overwhelmingly Irish neighborhoods. Some parishioners at Queen of Angels Church, a Catholic congregation along the route, which begins in Sunnyside and culminates in Woodside, have openly protested the parade, and groups of hecklers would just as soon see it disappear.
The Queens parade, which steps off on March 5 at 12:30 p.m., is a must for city politicians, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and national politicians such as Sen. Hillary Clinton. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the first woman and first openly gay person elected to the leadership post, will be honored along with the McCourts and Duncan.
Duncan, who works at the Mary Manning Walsh Home for the Aged in Upper Manhattan, says that "the McCourts are the premier Irish family in New York City today and it was a coup for us to be able to honor them. "Everyone in the Irish community knows them," she said, "and so this brings a large amount of Irishness to the parade."
Fay is working on a film documentary on Father Mychal Judge, the fire department chaplain who died during the World Trade Center attack on Sept. 11, 2001, after he was struck by falling debris. Fay says he is hoping to get Irish actor Gabriel Byrne, now appearing on Broadway, or Ian McKellen to narrate the documentary. It isn't easy to start a new parade, what with permits and costs and needed community approval, but in the summer of 1999, Fay and Duncan met at a Spanish restaurant in Queens. They talked about starting a new parade that would celebrate diversity. Duncan followed up and got several groups including unions and others to help sponsor it. "I'd had it up to here after being arrested for being gay when I tried to march in the St. Patrick's Day parade on Fifth Avenue."
So what began as dream in 1999 is now, seven years later, a reality and a parade that opens its arms to people who wouldn't feel comfortable with the much older, much bigger parade in Manhattan. So, in a way, the success of this little parade mirrors the success story of the McCourts, an extraordinary clan who made it through the miserable childhood that Frank McCourt chronicled so eloquently in "Angela's Ashes." That book won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Award, an amazing trifecta. "Angela's Ashes" was followed by "'Tis," and this year by "Teacher Man." All three books made it to the top of the New York Times Bestseller List, a rare feat indeed. "I am not living the American Dream; I am living the American fantasy," says Frank McCourt. On March 5 he will be at the head of the Queens parade, along with his three brothers and Ellen Duncan, whose perseverance turned what began as a kind of fantasy into a well-established parade in Queens, a borough that itself celebrates diversity each and every day.
St. Patrick's Day Parade Touts Unity in Sunnyside
Times Ledger March 10, 2005
By Matthew Monks
Unity was the theme of the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in Sunnyside Sunday, with homosexuals, Boy Scouts, civic groups, marching bands and politicians participating in the event.
"Welcome to New York City's inclusive St. Patrick's Day parade," event founder Brendan Fay announced to a crowd of several hundred marchers. "We're here to celebrate the spirit of Ireland and our Celtic heritage."
Revelers universally derided Manhattan's better-known St. Patrick's Day parade that bans gay marchers. "They don't let other groups march," said Yuri Cantor, 26, of Manhattan, who was marching with about a dozen self-described anarchists who carried a black banner featuring the anarchy symbol inside a green shamrock. "It's really quite repulsive - that type of behavior and sentiment." Cantor embraced the unity of the Sunnyside parade while distributing flaming pink fliers advocating "the elimination of imposed social hierarchy ... We stand for the creation of a new society without borders and against the bosses, both orange and green." As divisive as that might sound, the dissidents were welcomed with open arms.
"We don't exclude anyone," said Woodside resident Lillian Gross, of the Western Queens Independent Democrats.
"We believe in civil rights," added her friend, Gaye Fruscione, 42, of Briarwood.
The Manhattan parade does not, said Keith Mulet, 19, who marched with Astoria's Generation Q, a drop-in center for gay youth that carried a rainbow-emblazoned banner. "They're ignoring that we exist. Just ignoring us doesn't mean we're going away," Mulet said. "We have every right to be gay and Irish."
And in remarks before the procession, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said to raucous applause that homosexuals were guaranteed another right: "We need to make sure the city opens itself up to everybody. Opportunity means marriage should be available to everyone." While the mayor did not march, other politicians did, including City Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside), state Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) and New Paltz Mayor Jason West, who was arrested after officiating several same-sex marriages.
Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.
Queens St. Pat's Now a Must-Show
Gay City News March 10-16, 2005
By Winnie McCroy
The cold winds sweeping through Sunnyside, Queens on the afternoon of March 6 may have kept some celebrants inside their homes, but it did not prevent a host of politicians, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, from showing up for the sixth annual St. Pat’s For All gay-inclusive parade.
The event has become a political barnstorming alternative to the controversial Fifth Avenue parade in Manhattan, controlled by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, a group that has steadfastly refused to allow gay and lesbian-identified contingents to march.
This year it was also a chance for the mayor to reconcile with the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community after his February 5 decision to appeal a pro-gay marriage ruling the day before by Supreme Court Justice Doris Ling-Cohen, a move that has made politics very local for the city’s queers.
Unlike many, though not all, Democratic leaders, Bloomberg marches both in Queens and on Fifth Avenue. The LGBT community had successfully convinced most Democrats to boycott the March 17 parade, though Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, during her 2000 election drive, departed from that emerging tradition.
Clearly pleased that Bloomberg had arrived to participate in the parade, its longtime organizer, Brendan Fay, an Irish gay and AIDS activist, said, “I think it is very good that the mayor is coming to our all-inclusive parade,” adding, “but we wish he would really support our collective equality and work with us on the marriage issue.”
Fay said he intended to use his time with the mayor to challenge him on his appeal of the Ling-Cohen ruling that ordered the city clerk to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
“We’ll have to loudly communicate to this mayor that if he’s really with us, if he wants to walk in our parade, he has to walk with us as well on all the other days,” said Fay.
In his February 5 statement, Bloomberg said he personally supports same-sex marriage rights and would push for legislation recognizing it in Albany. He has also asked that his appeal be expedited by being heard immediately in the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals. No decision on that request has yet been made by the court.
Noting that Bloomberg will also march on May 17 in Manhattan, Fay said, nonetheless, “it is right that he come, celebrate with us and listen to our concerns and our issues.”
Of course, Bloomberg did not have the field to himself. Two of his potential Democratic rivals in November—City Council Speaker Gifford Miller and Manhattan Borough Pres. C. Virginia Fields—also came out for Sunday’s march, and two others—former Bronx Borough Pres. Fernando Ferrer and Brooklyn Congressman Anthony Weiner—attended a post-march celebration at the Saints & Sinners bar in Woodside.
In Sunnyside, as workers filled balloons for an orange, white and green arch, the colors of the Irish national flag, and volunteers searched for marchers to carry colorful puppets, a Queens Democratic district leader, Daniel Dromm, a longtime gay activist who was a co-founder of the borough’s June LGBT pride festivities, took a moment to express his own mixed feelings over Bloomberg’s participation.
“On one hand, it is good that we have the office of the mayor represented here,” said Dromm. “On the other hand, I have been upset with his stand on many issues. I don’t see how you can say you support gay marriage and then you go out and fight against it. He’s been bad on the Equal Partner Benefits bill, he’s been bad on the Dignity for All Students bill, and also I don’t like his education stuff.”
Dromm referred to laws enacted by the City Council over mayoral vetoes that provide benefits to the partners of LGBT employees working for contractors doing business with the city and an education measure that addresses bullying in the public schools and includes specific protections for queer youth. Bloomberg is currently challenging the contractor law in a lawsuit.
Many of Sunday’s participants echoed the sentiments articulated by Dromm, who is a public school teacher.
From a stage set up at the end of the parade route, Bloomberg attempted to explain his marriage appeal decision in words that emphasized his support for LGBT rights.
“This is a time of the year when we really should be making sure this is a city of opportunity,” the mayor said. “Opportunity means jobs, opportunity means no crime, opportunity means good schools and I happen to believe that opportunity also means that marriage should be available to everyone. The city is trying to do what we can to understand what the state law really means, and we have to make sure that the city opens itself up to everybody, and I think this parade is one of the ways to do it.”
Bloomberg’s words, however, did not silence his Democratic critics.
Christine Quinn, a lesbian city councilwoman from Manhattan, who marched with Speaker Miller, whose mayoral bid she strongly supports, said, “I think of course it’s nice that the mayor comes, but we can’t forget that he also marches down Fifth Avenue in a parade that doesn’t let us in.”
Quinn then went after the mayor for being a political hypocrite.
“In some ways, this parade is in the talk-is-cheap category,” she said, adding that if the mayor “really believed that law is so unclear that it needed to be decided on by the state’s highest court, he could have issued the marriage licenses and appealed.”
Asked how the mayor’s decision resonated among the city’s LGBT community, Quinn replied, “His decision to appeal was extraordinarily disappointing.”
In her remarks, Fields, the Manhattan borough president, also distinguished between participating in the Queens parade and joining the Manhattan event.
“I am here today to support the lesbian and gay community and to say again that exclusion from the parade is something that I hate,” she said. “And I don’t believe that any group should be excluded from the parade because of maybe different beliefs, lifestyles or ideology.”
City Councilwoman Margarita Lopez, a lesbian who is running for Manhattan borough president, said she turned out Sunday due to her “enormous respect to the Irish community” and “because it’s a parade that’s inclusionary.”
“The parade sends a message that everyone is welcome,” Lopez said. “Be black, be white, be Latino, be a woman or a man or be gay, you are welcome in this parade.”
Author Malachy McCourt noted that “it’s very unfortunate that all people who are of human descent can’t get together and celebrate all our ethnic heritages one way or another, and that’s what I think is beautiful about being here. Very decent, good people have organized this and it’s a great memory of Mychal Judge,” the gay fire department chaplain killed at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
As groups including the All City High Schools Marching Band, the New York Irish Dance Academy, Staten Island Stonewall, Dignity USA and Dignity New York and the Boys Club stepped off into the march, other elected officials echoed the sentiment that having an inclusive St. Patrick’s Day parade was very important.
Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum said, “This is the first parade of the season and the fact that it’s inclusive is extremely important. I believe that all parades should be inclusive—we should include everyone who wants to march regardless of anything, because parades are fun and they’re all about celebrating.”
As the parade made its way down Skillman Avenue, the crowds cheered the marching bands, performers and many groups that had assembled. A lively bunch of anarchists, dressed in black and green and waving black flags that featured a shamrock overlaid with the anarchy symbol, kept the end of the parade festive with drumming, flag waving and good-natured chaos.
Some of those same protesters will join the activists who plan to protest the Fifth Avenue parade at 10:30 a.m. on March 17, at the east side of Fifth Avenue and 58th Street.
Mayor's Heckler Works for State Senate Leader
Newsday March 8, 2005
By Joshua Robin
A man who heckled Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a gay-inclusive St. Patrick's Day parade is a staff employee in the office of State Senate Minority Leader David Paterson.
Allen Roskoff, a longtime gay rights activist who called Bloomberg a "bigot" several times Sunday at the Woodside event before the mayor's security detail confronted him, is a special assistant to Paterson, a Democrat, according to state records.
"Allen's characterization of the mayor as a bigot is not representative of our office," Michael Jones-Bey, chief of staff for Paterson, said after learning from a reporter what Roskoff had said.
Roskoff, who is paid $85,000 a year as a liaison to the gay and lesbian communities, previously worked for several city and state officials in a public career that stretches to 1972.
He is also an unpaid operative for City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, a likely mayoral contender.
In the telephone interview, Roskoff, 55, defended his heckling of Bloomberg, a Republican, saying, "when I am on my own time, I represent myself."
"I was there totally independent of my doing anything here," he added, speaking from his downtown Manhattan office.
Roskoff said he objected to Bloomberg's stance on same-sex marriage. The mayor has said he personally supports that right, but last month, he nonetheless appealed a State Supreme Court court ruling that would allow marriages here.
Bloomberg said at the time that he wants the state's highest court to decide on the ruling's legality before the city issues licenses.
Roskoff yesterday accused the mayor of talking "out of both sides of his mouth."
A Bloomberg spokesman declined to comment.
Steve Sigmund, a spokesman for Miller, said, "The bottom line is Gifford Miller is a positive person, so he thinks that kind of language is unnecessary and inappropriate."
Staff writer Glenn Thrush contributed to this story.
Applause Greets Bloomberg at St. Pat's For All
The Sun March 7, 2005
By Jill Gardiner
The annual Queens St. Patrick's Parade, also known as the St. Pat's for All Parade, has become something of a political minefield for Mayor Bloomberg.
Yesterday the mayor was greeted with applause at the event, the only St. Patrick's Day parade in the city that permits gay and lesbian groups to march with their banners, yet when he left, some participants painted his appeal of last month's ruling on same-sex marriage as woefully hypocritical.
The mayor of New Paltz, Jason West, who made national headlines for marrying 25 same-sex couples last year, said the mayor had "decided to side with those for whom bigotry and hatred and exclusion are more important."
"I think that Mayor Bloomberg is an embarrassment at this point," Mr. West, 27, said as the parade wended its way through the middle-class neighborhood of Sunnyside. Last year the New Paltz politician said he hoped his New York City counterpart would join his cause.
After nearly a year of public pressure, Mr. Bloomberg, a Republican, announced in early February that he supported giving legal recognition to same-sex marriage - a position that even some prominent Democrats have not taken. "People have the right to love, to live with, and to marry whoever they want," the mayor said.
In the next breath, however, Mr. Bloomberg declared that he would appeal a ruling by a state Supreme Court judge in Manhattan that would compel the New York City clerk to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. The mayor said it simply did not make sense to issue licenses without a verdict from the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals. Without it, he said, the city would run the risk of having to nullify the certificates.
Before taking a helicopter to Staten Island yesterday for a second St. Patrick's Day Parade, Mr. Bloomberg told the crowd he shared their view on same-sex marriage and that they differed only on how to achieve that goal.
The mayor's stance on the issue has given his opponents in the upcoming mayoral election more ammunition, adding to a stockpile that includes Mr. Bloomberg's insistence that the city should subsidize a domed stadium on Manhattan's West Side and what other candidates characterize as his failed overhaul of the public-school system.
Yesterday, nearly all of the mayoral candidates split their time between the Queens and Staten Island parades, shaking hands and showing their faces in two politically important swing areas of the city. The speaker of the City Council, Gifford Miller; the borough president of Manhattan, C. Virginia Fields; the former borough president of the Bronx, Fernando Ferrer, and Rep. Anthony Weiner all made appearances in Queens - the last two at a bar called Saints & Sinners, just as the parade wrapped up.
While the Staten Island parade route was packed with cheering crowds, the "inclusionary" Queens parade had only a few stragglers holding signs on the sidewalks and some vendors offering green balloons, necklaces, and hats. The event gets a regular procession of elected officials and political candidates who want to show their support for gay issues and serves as mechanism to protest the city's largest St. Patrick's Day parade on March 17 along Fifth Avenue, which bars gay groups.
At Staten Island, Mr. Bloomberg said this was the first of three weekends of St. Patrick's Day events and proclaimed: "Everyone has a little Irish today." He also said people were "screaming" along the parade route in support of the stadium.
During the earlier parade, the local Democratic district leader, Daniel Dromm, said he was glad the mayor came - Mayor Giuliani never attended - but said he wanted a regime change in City Hall.
"I don't see how somebody who believes in gay marriage can then turn around and, you know, appeal the decision that was made," he said.
The founder of the parade, Brendan Fay, said the mayor had gone out of his way to be at the parade every year and to invite the leadership to Gracie Mansion. Mr. Fay said, though, that he was still disappointed with the mayor's stance. The mayor of Nyack, John Shields, who was wearing a Kelly-green scarf and a black top-hat adorned with a gay-pride rainbow, called Mr. Bloomberg "cowardly."
"I think Mayor Bloomberg is trying to ride both sides of the fence, and I think he's a cowardly elected official," said Mr. Shields, who is openly gay. He is appealing a court ruling that said he could not administer gay marriages.
The issue has been a tricky one for Mr. Bloomberg. The ruling by Justice Doris Ling-Cohen put him in the position of having to choose between courting Democrats, the overwhelming majority of city voters, or appeasing Republicans, whom he needs to win the primary and to rally behind him in the general election. It is, though, also shaping up to be a thorny issue for some of his Democratic challengers, who will need support from conservative Democrats who don't support gay marriage.
Yesterday, Council Member Christine Quinn of Manhattan, who brought a plate of waffles to a news conference last year to chide the mayor for "waffling" on gay marriage, said, "It's certainly nice that the mayor came" but parade appearances "fall into the talk-is-cheap category."
The Queens parade's lone bagpipe player, John Maynard, said he is gay but he agreed with the mayor's appeal. Riding the No. 7 train back to Manhattan after the parade, Mr. Maynard said: "I go along with it. It's probably a good way to do it. If you get the courts, you can settle it once and for all."
Gay-Friendly Irish Distiller Punished
New York Blade March 19, 2004
By Atiya Jones
The annual March 17 St. Patrick’s Patrick Parade, a New York tradition, seemed to go on without any problems this year. But again this year, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the group that organizes the parade, has brought the issue of Irish gay participation to the fore.
For the past several years, the Fifth Avenue parade has been mired in controversy over the issue of not allowing an Irish gay group to participate. This time, the controversy concerns the parade’s organizers dropping of one of its sponsors, Boru Vodka.
Boru Vodka, the Queens-based Irish vodka company, was dropped as a sponsor from the Fifth Avenue parade because of its involvement in the gay-inclusive St. Patrick’s Day Parade, actually held on Sunday, March 7, through Sunnyside, Queens.
John Dunleavy, 66, one of the chairs of the Fifth Avenue parade, told the New York Daily News, “If they want to support that parade run by the gays, that’s fine with us. But we want no part of it, even though it’s a very good vodka.”Brendan Fay, a co-chair for the inclusive parade, was shocked by the statements made by Dunleavy and James Barker, another chair of the Fifth Avenue parade. “Michael Bloomberg was at our parade too,” he said. “Are you telling me that they don’t want the mayor to walk in the Fifth Avenue parade?”
The inclusive parade is usually funded by donations from people in the community. So organizers were delighted to find out that Boru Vodka wanted to sponsor this year’s parade. Boru gave the parade $2,400, which paid for an all-city youth marching band, a large Brigid of Ireland puppet, and DeJimbe, a band that fuses African drum and Irish pipes.
“They were happy to see their money go to those things,” said Fay. “We couldn’t survive without sponsors like Local 1199, Dignity NY, and Boru Vodka.”This year’s inclusive parade highlighted Irish women’s leadership in the peace process and political life of Northern Ireland. It’s the only St. Patrick’s Day parade in the city that celebrates not only diversity in the Irish community, but throughout Queens as well. Other ethnic groups, including Koreans, Mexicans and Peruvians, all participated in the parade.
“It’s not a ‘gay parade,’” said Fay. “ It reflects the diversity of the community.”Fay finds it embarrassing such a prominent representative of the Irish community could speak so negatively about Irish people and an Irish company simply for trying to help another parade.
While Barker has gone on record saying that he doesn’t want to talk to anyone who organizes the inclusive parade, Fay says he’d like to meet with Barker and Dunleavy so that they can learn what the parade is really about.
The Streets Were Paved With Green March
By Christa Weber
The streets of Sunnyside were green with pride on March 7, as the fifth annual "St. Pats For All" inclusive parade made its way down Skillman Avenue to 61st Street. There were no protesters this year as members of the gay community joined Irish dancers, puppeteers, stilt walkers, community groups reflective of the ethnic mix of Queens and thousands of spectators, the largest crowd to date.
"This is an all-inclusive parade that brings the community together and reflects the ethnic and spiritual diversity of the borough," said Brendan Fay, co-chair. "I’m very proud that the parade is in Queens because it’s one of the most diverse geographic sites in the US. Immigrants, myself included, arrive in Queens with their hopes and dreams." Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has marched in the parade since his election, and New Paltz Mayor Jason West (who has performed marriage ceremonies for the gay community) both marched in the parade, along with many local politicians honoree Frank Durkan, an Irish civil rights activist, and Siobhan Kyne, a leader of the Irish community in Queens.
The seed that grew into the idea for the parade was planted five years ago in an Irish pub in Woodside when Fay and Eileen Duncan came up with the idea of a celebration that welcomes everyone. That was in response to Manhattan’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Fifth Avenue which excludes gay groups from marching under their banners. The all-inclusive parade, co-chaired by Fay and Barbara Heffernan Mohr, is the only parade to welcome lesbians and gays.
Everyone got the chance to be a little Irish this year as ethnic groups like Peruvians, Koreans, Mexicans, Ecuadorians and Native Americans marched with international musicians like DeJimbe, a band from Dublin that blends Irish music with African drumming, the Niall O’Leary School of Irish Dance and the Lavender and Green Alliance, a New York Irish lesbian and gay group.
Women’s leadership was celebrated and Northern Ireland Assemblywoman, Patricia Lewsley, the newly-elected chair of the Social Democratic Labor Party, and Bronagh Hinds, Northern Ireland Women’s Initiative’s Northern Ireland director and 1999 European Woman of the Year, attended to highlight Irish women’s leadership in the peace process in Northern Ireland.
This year’s parade was the first to have corporate sponsorship, a fact reflective of how quickly the all-inclusive parade has grown. Local 1199 (Health and Hospital Workers Union) and Boru Vodka, a Queens-based Irish distributor, both helped make the day a success. The post-party was held at the Tower View on Roosevelt Avenue, where Salvivo, a local band from Sunnyside, gave everyone a reason to dance.
"This parade is becoming yet another tradition in celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in New York City," said Fay. "It is a moment to be filled with the spirit of the city and the borough, the spirit of inclusion, hospitality and diversity. It sends the message that inclusion is good and allows us to learn to walk together."
On March 6, the Rockaways hosted its own all-inclusive St. Patrick’s Day parade, which has traditionally been one of the largest in New York City. Two of the area’s favorite politicians, Councilman Joe Addabbo and Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, were on hand to greet the thousands of spectators. Dr. Geraldine Chappey, a democratic district leader, was also out showing off her Irish pride.
Same-Sex Marriage Focus of St. Pat's Parade
Times Ledger March 3, 2004
By Alex Davidson
Barbara Mohr and Brendan Fay energize participants at the fifth annual Sunnyside St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined City Council Speaker Gifford Miller and many Queens politicians Sunday in Sunnyside for a St. Patrick’s Day parade that turned into a rally calling for the legalization of same-sex marriages.
Bloomberg marched alongside Mayor Jason West, the 26-year-old top official in the village of New Paltz, N.Y. who became the state’s first mayor to marry same-sex couples Feb. 28.
The elected officials came to Queens as part of the fifth annual all-inclusive St. Patrick’s Day parade, the only celebration of its kind in which gays and lesbians can participate.
“What we are seeing in America today is the largest flowering of the civil rights movement this country has seen in a generation,” said West, a member of the Green Party. “And I am honored and surprised that I was put into a position to be able to articulate some of that movement.”West, almost two weeks after initiating the same-sex marriages, has since been charged with 19 misdemeanor counts that allege he wrongly interpreted state law by allowing gays and lesbians to wed without proper licenses.
Bloomberg, a Republican who has stayed relatively quiet on the same-sex marriage issue, said he came to the parade to support the event’s diverse participants. He only offered a hint of his stance on whether or not gays and lesbians should under current law be allowed to wed.
“It (the parade) is a chance for us to say that we want civil rights for everybody,” Bloomberg said. “And clearly there are issues and if you want to get them changed, if you are successful in getting the law changed in Albany, then you can rest assured that this city will enforce the law.”
The all-inclusive St. Patrick’s Day parade in Queens was started in 2000 as an alternative to the celebration that takes place March 17 on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Gays and lesbians were excluded from those festivities and as a result Sunnyside parade co-founder Brendan Fay said he was inspired to hold an event that welcomes all people of Irish descent.
“I am very proud of what the parade has achieved,” Fay said. “I think that what we have done is create a celebration that sends a strong message of hospitality.”This was the first year that no protesters lined the parade route’s streets, Fay said. He said it was significant that Bloomberg marched in the parade despite the mayor’s unclear position on same-sex marriages.
In speaking to the crowd, which included the Patricia Lewsley, a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Miller said the current state constitution could be interpreted to allow for legal same-sex marriages. He criticized Bloomberg for not taking the lead on the issue and forcing the state to initiate legislation allowing for gays and lesbians to wed.
“I will just say that I think that this is a time when we have to stand up for equal treatment for all New Yorkers,” Miller said. “And it is very clear that gays and lesbians are not able to have the same rights under the law currently as other Americans.”He added: “If we create second-class citizens, we are not standing up for equal protection of the laws.”Advocates for same-sex civil marriages marched on City Hall last Thursday as dozens of gay and lesbian couples tried to obtain licenses from City Clerk Victor Robles. All the couples were denied their requests, but the issue has been left to the State Supreme Court following several lawsuits contending same-sex marriages are legal.
U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Kew Gardens) said he favors the legal avenue for gays and lesbians to obtain their marriage rights. He said other means of obtaining the right to wed might give the perception that the law is something that could selectively be followed.
“I would prefer that this (same-sex marriage) be seen as being done in an orderly fashion,” Weiner said. “Fundamental to my argument that I make to those who oppose full gay rights is this: Someone else’s right to marriage doesn’t change your relationship with your husband or wife and it doesn’t undermine society in any way.”The parade, which started at 43rd Street and Skillman Avenue, weaved through Sunnyside and ended with a fair at the Tower View in Woodside. People lined the streets to see West, Bloomberg, Miller, and cultural and social groups such as an Irish soccer club, representatives from the Mexican and Peruvian communities and Irish dancers and puppeteers.
Barbara Mohr, a co-organizer of the Queens parade for three years, said the diverse parade marchers make the parade unique among other St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.
“The purpose of this parade is inclusivity,” she said.
Councilwoman Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), one of three openly gay members of the City Council, said the all-inclusive parade was integral to advancing the rights of gays and lesbians in New York City. She criticized Bloomberg for what she called “waffling” on the issue of same-sex marriage.
“I think this is the most important parade in the city. It is the only truly inclusive St. Patrick’s Day parade in the five boroughs,” Quinn said. “This parade is the only event where the entirety of the Irish-American community is embraced.”She said: “It is the only event that says, yes, there are Irish lesbians and gay men.”
Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.
New Paltz Mayor Joins Gay Irish March
Irish Voice February 15, 2004
By Georgina Brennan
JASON West, 26, the New Paltz, New York mayor who made headlines granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples last week, will be an honored guest at the gay organized St. Patrick’s parade in Woodside on Sunday, March 7.
West was arrested by the Ulster County district attorney on Tuesday for his role in marrying gay and lesbian couples which the official said was illegal.
“The local Green Party are great supporters of the parade, and they asked Mayor West to join our Irish and we are delighted he will be there,” said parade organizer Brendan Fay, 45. “It is a continuation of his ideas about equality and fairness,” added Fay.
West took office nine months ago as New York State’s first Green Party mayor. Since then, other than repairing potholes, his tenure has been run-of-the-mill.
That was, of course, until last week, when he decided to perform same-sex marriages after New Paltz’s town clerk had refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
Announcing his decision, West said state law allows him to perform the ceremonies and does not require a license for the marriage to be legally binding. About 300 couples put their names on a waiting list to be married there and the village was soon bombarded with couples eager to be married.
“It is an issue that deserves to be discussed publicly in New York State,” the part-time mayor told reporters last week. “It’s time that I added my voice and the voice of the people of the village of New Paltz to that growing chorus for fairness, equality before the law and basic family values.”
The controversial mayor will be marching in the fifth annual Queens St. Patrick’s Parade and Irish fair with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg beginning at 12:30 p.m. on Skillman Avenue and 43rd Street in Sunnyside.
Two of the Irish community’s most prominent leaders, trial lawyer Frank Durkan from Bohola, Co. Mayo and community leader Siobhan Kyne will lead a parade that is highlighting Irish women’s leadership in the peace process and in political life of Northern Ireland.
The march is also calling for an end to the persecution of the McAllisters, the family from New Jersey which the Justice Department is seeking to deport because Malachy McAllister was involved with the IRA.
This year’s parade marks the first time that politicians from Ireland are marching. Bronagh Hinds, director of Northern Ireland Women’s Initiative, is taking part, and it is also the first to end with an after party at the Tower View in Woodside.
Among the sponsors of the parade this year are Local 1199 and Boru Vodka, a Queens-based Irish company.
Unlike the main New York City parade up Fifth Avenue on March 17, the Queens parade allows groups to march under their own banner.
“Unique among Irish gatherings in the nation, ours is open and to all who wish to share in the spirit of the day. We go out of our way to welcome the unwelcome!,” said Fay.
“More than a parade, we have become a unique expression and exploration of what it means to be Irish in New York City at the beginning of the 21st century. We expect, as in previous years, to have many from our diverse communities participate,” said Fay.
Reining in New York's Parade: Organisers of the St Patrick's Day Parade Have Banned People from Marching with Banners Identifying Themselves As Gay
March 14, 2003
By David Teather
It is a uniquely New York kind of row. It involves one of the endless parades that represent the teeming ethnic groups that make up the city (with the notable exception of the English) and that gridlock Fifth Avenue for much of the summer. It involves sexual politics, sensitive racial issues, the mayor and even, for good measure, a couple of cast members of The Sopranos.
Of all of the parades that take place in the city, perhaps the most widely embraced is the Irish, which will take place on Monday. Perhaps that has something to do with the preponderance of Irish bars in the city and New Yorkers' tendency to enjoy a drink. The Empire State Building, lit up in different colours at night, goes green for the occasion. Bar owners serve emerald coloured beer.
But the organisers of the St Patrick's Day Parade are a little more choosy about who they want to participate. The Ancient Order of Hibernians, which organises the parade, forbids openly gay and lesbian marchers. The Hibernians argue that the parade is protected by the First Amendment guarantees of freedom of religion, speech and assembly. That view was upheld by a federal judge in 1993 - anyone is allowed to march but people are barred from carrying banners that would identify themselves as gay.
The march causes a perennial thorny problem for the city's politicians - always sharply aware of the patchwork quilt of special interest groups that occupy different neighborhoods in the five boroughs. The first and lasttime that gay groups have marched openly in the St Patrick's Day parade was in 1991, when then Mayor David Dinkins negotiated a deal.
But the parade would no doubt have gone ahead with the minimum of fuss had it not been for the actions of Mayor Bloomberg. The gay community has argued loudly that the mayor should shun the parade. He has after all set a precedent. Two actors, Lorraine Bracco and Dominic Chianese, who feature in The Sopranos, that everyday tale of Mafia life, were barred from the Columbus Day Parade because the organisers claimed the show indulges in negative Italian stereotypes. The actors happened to be friends of the mayor. In that case he was so outraged that he chose to boycott, spending the day instead enjoying lunch with his actor pals in an Italian restaurant in the Bronx. The mayor is attempting appeasement with the gay community.
He has already attended an Irish parade in Woodside, Queens that includes gay marchers (one of three he joined before the main event in Manhattan) and will host a breakfast on Monday that gay groups are invited to. That hasn't satisfied his critics. City councilwoman Christine Quinn, at a news conference asked the mayor to invite Irish gays to march with him or not to march at all. "Why is discrimination against two actors for who they play on television worse than discrimination against an entire class of New Yorkers and Americans?" she asked.
The small parade in Queens was launched four years ago as a deliberately inclusive event - one of the lead organisers is gay Irish immigrant Brendan Fay. At the march, the mayor dodged questions and said simply: "I'm glad everybody can come and march in this parade - I wish all parades were that way."
The mayor was mildly heckled on the Queens march - but at least one of the comments might presage a tougher time from other members of the Irish community than he is getting from the gay and lesbians. A pub patron sarcastically invited the mayor to "come in for a smoke" - the ban kicks in at the end of the month. The mayor has been a supporter of gay rights. He marched in last year's gay pride parade and has openly backed a gay rights bill that has been stuck in the legislature for decades. Many feel disappointed that he wont go one step further and take some friends for lunch in one of the many restaurants displaying rainbow flags he could chose in New York's Chelsea district on Monday.
Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited
Unfolding the Banners of the Heart
NY Daily News
March 11, 2003
Over the years, thousands of gay men and lesbians have marched in the St. Patrick's Day Parade on Fifth Avenue, the largest and oldest annual parade in the world. In years past. You've seen them there year after year, festooned with shamrocks, kilts, and Irish smiles like all the rest, but you didn't always know that they carried a secret with them, too, forced on them by a community that wasn't ready to allow them to be open about themselves and their deepest affections. They were the legions of unmarried uncles who helped carry the banners for County Galway or Cork; they were the hordes of maiden aunts who cooked the corned beef and cabbage that sustained the marchers from Leitrim or Donegal or Carlow. Some of them, God bless us, were the priests and nuns who carried the faith to a new land while secretly hiding the love that dared not speak its name within their own hearts. While all these lesbians and gay men could openly carry banners honoring their home counties or their spiritual heritage, they were forced to fold and hide away the banners from their own deep heartlands of affection.
Now we know, sadly, that hiding one's affectional identity has deep and painful consequences for both themselves and the wider community. The St. Patrick's Day Parade on Fifth Avenue is one of the last bastions in New York where institutional bigotry is allowed to trump the simple desire of men and women to be true to their own God-given affections. But there is hope: this parade, after all, has not always been the narrowly exclusive affair that it has become under the aegis of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. Since 1762, when New York's Irish first stepped out in this public celebration, the parade has gone through many incarnations, as it will again. Protestants and Catholics marched together freely in many of the early parades, though that might be considered unthinkable today. Of course, gays and lesbians will march together freely and openly in the future.
After the Great Famine diaspora of the 1840s, when the Irish in Five Points and Seneca Village became despised and teeming minorities, they used the parade to claim pride in their heritage and set out on the very long road toward assimilation and respect. Having fled hunger and discrimination at home, many of our ancestors were greeted with signs that read "no Irish need apply." How ironic that the descendants of these Irish exiles continue to turn their backs on their own gay sons and lesbian daughters in 2003. Ironic that many of these narrowminded nabovs flaunt their Irishness while sporting green carnations, a sign of identity designed by Ireland's most famous gay icon, Oscar Wilde.
Many gay Irish fled a land where the old British laws defined us as criminal, where the churches defined us as "objectively disordered." Like others before us, we arrived in New York with simple dreams and hopes to flourish and be ourselves. Since 1990, members of the Lavender and Green Alliance and the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization have sought to be included in the St. Patrick's celebrations from Fifth Avenue to the Bronx and Brooklyn. We were told "no Irish gays need apply--unless you hide your identity, fold up your banners."
For over a decade now, the Irish parades have been clouded by the exclusion of gays, by protests and arrests. Of course the AOH and parade organizers have a legal right to include (and exclude) whomever they choose. However, the legal right to discriminate doesn't make it morally right.
We need to ask what message is being conveyed across these exclusionary miles of pipers and greenery? The parade is caught in a very narrow vision of who is Irish. This fosters an atmosphere of intolerance and fear. The exclusion of open gay and lesbian people is discrimination, pure and simple. There are no two ways about that. What message is being conveyed to Irish families with gay children.
Religion is often invoked as grounds for exclusion. Indded, some parades even claim to be "Catholic" events. There is nothing in Catholic theology to support this exclusion. St. Patrick, himself a slave, outcast, and foreigner, went from one corner of Ireland to the next, urging all to see God in each person. Early Celtic people welcomed the stranger in their midst, raising genuine hospitality to the status of a much honored practice. "Why fast or go on pilgrimaget when you can meet Christ in the stranger at the door?" they would ask.
Truth be told, the Hibernians do say we are allowed to march--but only if we fold the banners planted in our own heartlands, these affectionate counties of the spirit that are as much a part of our identities as geographic or ancestral ties. They say we can march, but at a dear price of silence and invisibility! That's like asking gays and lesbians to deny our own humanity. But we do exist, and we won't conceal our lives and loves to spare someone else's misplaced embarrassment. We have left the closet, and there is no turning back. Gay people are often silenced by prejudice, or silenced by suicide, or silenced by murder. Being in this parade is about breaking that silence, about moving from silence to speech.
Only in America do the old, darker attitudes hold sway. In Ireland itself, the anti-gay legislation is gone. Attitudes have changed, and the parades in the "old country" reflect this new inclusive reality. Gays and lesbians march in Cork and in Dublin. Are New York's parade organizers more Irish or Catholic than our people back home?
Four years ago, to the delight of many, the Irish community in Queens began the city's first truly inclusive St. Patrick's Day parade. It was a breakthrough moment of healing and reconciliation. At least there is one parade in New York that welcomes all to celebrate Ireland whether by birth, heritage, or affection.
Over the past few years, prominent New Yorkers, Irish and otherwise, have been staying away from the Fifth Avenue parade, a relic of a harsher, meaner era that no longer reflects the reality of the Irish experience, or our growing diversity. With our feet and our voices, many have called for reform, and have spoken out against the ongoing discrimination. The exclusion of lesbian and gay people is out of step with modern Ireland, Celtic traditions of hospitality, and New York's spirit of diversity.
On this St. Patrick's Day, the place for lesbian and gay Irish and their loved ones in neither on the sidewalk nor in the closet, but out and proud in the heart of a diverse Irish community. On March 17 we will be at the Mayor's pre-parade breakfast. The day is not far off when we will join our people on the Avenue.
With pride in the inclusive spirit of Cork, Dublin, and Queens, in the spirit of Patrick, and in celebration of Ireland, let's unfold our banners and join our neighbors as full and loving members of the Irish community.
Brendan Fay is founder of the Lavender and Green Alliance, a New York Irish lesbian and gay group, and co-chair of the Queens St. Patrick's Day Parade.
St. Patrick's day in Woodside
March 6-12, 2003
By Christa Weber
The streets of Woodside were awash with Irish pride this past Sunday, March 2, during Queensâ?? fourth annual all-inclusive St. Patrickâ??s Day parade. Originally organized by Brendan Fay as a response to Manhattanâ??s traditional parade on Fifth Avenue which excludes gay groups from marching under their banners, the parade ran down Skillman Avenue. It also ran through some pretty bad weather. While the rain, evocative of Irish mists, kept the number of participants relatively low, it didn't discourage such notable folks as Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Gifford Miller from flaunting their green spirit. The diverse group of marchers also included the Mexican Civic Committee and the Korean American Community Empowerment Council.
The parade, believed by many to be the best St. Patrick's Day salute because it demonstrates the city's diversity and acceptance of its citizens' differences, has drawn its share of criticism. Some local Skillman Avenue residents went so far as to put up derogatory signs in their windows declaring the parade "blasphemous". The Mayor has been additionally criticized because, while he did march in the inclusive parade, he has not refused to march in Manhattan's parade. Many see this as a sign that he is in support of the exclusion of homosexuals from the traditional festivities. But even so, the tone of the responses to the Woodside event seem to be overwhelmingly positive. People feel good being included. After all, on St, Patrickâ??s day, aren't we all a little Irish?
Mayor Marches In Sunnyside
March 5, 2003
By Thomas Cogan
Photos Walter Karling A rainy afternoon didn’t keep members of the Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens from joining in the fourth annual Sunnyside-Woodside St. Patrick’s Day Parade last Sunday, March 2. Mayor Michael Bloomberg (c.) was joined at the Sunnyside-Woodside St. Patrick’s Day Parade by (l. to r.) Congressmember Joseph Crowley, Assemblymember Eric Gioia, Council Speaker Gifford Miller and Congressmember Anthony Weiner.
here’s the mayor," a mother said to her young daughter, as they stood at the corner of 56th Street and Woodside Avenue on Sunday afternoon. Mayor Michael Bloomberg probably didn’t hear the woman say that, but did notice her and the little girl dressed in bright green rain gear, standing by themselves behind a wooden police barrier. He turned from the parade that brought him to that junction and went over to shake their hands. He turned around and squatted between them for a photo op, making several photographers scramble to accommodate him and the two surprised spectators. Then he went back to the parade. He had only five blocks to go to become the first front rank politician to march the entire course of the St. Patrick’s Parade; indeed, at that point, he was the only politician of any sort remaining.
It finally rained on this, the fourth St. Patrick’s Parade, the one that calls itself "all-inclusive." Rain was a threat last year, and even came down a little, just before the parade began, but then it let up and spared all participants, Senator Hillary Clinton and Bloomberg included. Not this year. Though the sun actually shone before nightfall, at 1 p.m. in the afternoon rain was falling steadily, letting those about to march know that this time it would have to be endured.
By then, the politicians had gathered at Skillman Avenue and 43rd Street, Congressmembers Joseph Crowley and Anthony Weiner, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, City Councilmembers Helen Sears, Melinda Katz and Eric Gioia and Assemblymember Brian McLaughlin among them. They all arrived knowing what they would find. Unlike last year, when Clinton and Bloomberg caused great surprise by showing up, this year the mayor let everyone know he would be at the parade and would not just give it a sendoff, as he did in 2002, but would march too. Before noon, there were signs of preparation that one would not have noticed on previous St. Patrick’s Parade days. Department of Sanitation vehicles scrubbed Skillman Avenue clean and several men in black traversed the area at 43rd Street, checking everything out. Within an hour, the object of their concern, the mayor, arrived amidst the usual surge of reporters, photographers and television cameramen. He was dressed in a rain jacket, ready to march.
He spoke briefly, but only after some other speakers got in a few words. Brendan Fay, organizer of the parade for all four years of its existence, could have reminded listeners of the recently departed Fred Rogers as, with rain pouring on him, he hailed this "beautiful day for Queens, Ireland and the city of New York." He was followed by State Senator Tom Duane Manhattan, who said he’d love to march on Fifth Avenue but would not as long as the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 17, to which he referred, prohibits the inclusion of gay and lesbian groups. Bloomberg, who has displeased those groups by saying, that he will be marching in the March 17 parade, tried to see the good in the weather by saying, "It makes you feel you grew up in Ireland," but had to admit, "Sorry folks, that’s the best I could do."
Police from Manhattan and the 108th Precinct in Queens were anxious to get the parade started, and finished, so after a vanguard of uniformed students began to march up Skillman Avenue, the mayor soon followed. He was in the company of politicians, Fay and other parade stalwarts behind a white and gold banner proclaiming inclusiveness. After them came the New York All City High School Marching Band and Korean and Mexican groups, as well as the Gay & Lesbian Big Apple Corps, a marching band with rainbow decorations on their white uniforms. Peace activists marched, several of them bearing tributes to Philip Berrigan, the former Josephite priest and anti-war protester, who died in early December. The Lesbian & Gay Fighting Irish of Notre Dame/St. Mary’s and the Sunnyside United Dog Society (S.U.D.S.) made their presence known.
There was just a little hostility. "Go back to Bermuda!" somebody shouted, and one man stood in the doorway of a coffee shop between 46th and 47th Streets and booed lustily. But between 50th and 51st Streets, some people waved and called to the mayor, and he responded by breaking from the parade for the first time to say hello and shake hands. He was at the spot where Clinton took her leave in 2000 and 2002, and the irony was that he was not leaving but the other politicians were—taking a rain check. Bloomberg proceeded to the turn at 56th Street and on to Woodside Avenue, where the little girl and her mother awaited him, then on to the end, at Woodside and 61st, Street where security forces and other officials guided him to the van that bore him away.
The rest of the parade soon reached the final too, soaked, bedraggled and small. The parade to be held in Manhattan March 17 may get wet too, but will remain large and unyielding, and include Bloomberg to boot. But the Sunnyside parade gained the participation of an inclusive Republican mayor. For next year, organizers look forward to a nicer day and another appearance by other politicians, possibly the junior senator, Hillary Clinton.
Flak vs. St. Pat's March
Shunned because it allows gays, backers say
NY Daily News
February 28, 2003
By Warren Woodberry Jr.
Backers of Sunday's St. Patrick's Day parade - the only one in the city that allows gays and lesbians to march - are upset about a lack of support from some in the local Irish community.
"The parade has come under heavy opposition from a number of people within the Irish community," said Brendan Fay, a parade co-chairman. "Among their claims are that it is a gay parade, and, of course, it is simply another St. Patrick's Day parade, but unique in that it is the only one that is welcoming to gay groups within the community."
Fay said organizers were shocked when the Emerald Isle Immigration Center of Woodside said its workers were unavailable to march in Sunday's fourth annual Sunnyside/Woodside parade.
"I said, 'You guys can't get two people to carry a banner in the parade?'" said the gay Irishman.
The center did not return calls for comment.
For years, city gays and lesbians have tried to participate in the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade on Fifth Ave. in Manhattan, which takes place March 17.
Fay helped found the local parade after he and members were denied slots in St. Patrick's Day parades held throughout the city.
"Queens is going to lead on this issue," Fay vowed. "In the most unlikely of boroughs, a solution has been reached."
Mark Mones, vice president for Parents Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, said the opposition from within the Irish community is very painful.
"It hurts, it really hurts," said Mones, who is not gay but has a gay son. "They're fathers and mothers just like everybody else, and this is not a choice that they picked."
The local parade has a number of prominent supporters such as Mayor Bloomberg, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Councilmen Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside) and Hiram Monserrate (D-Corona), who all are expected to march.
Fay said of the 100 diverse parade participants, about seven are gay and lesbian groups.
Other registered participants include the Sisters of the Cenacle of Flushing, St. Francis Xavier Parish in Manhattan and the Catholic Worker Movement.
Sunday's Sunnyside/Woodside parade will begin 12:30 p.m. at 43rd St. and Skillman Ave. and end at 60th St. and Woodside Ave.
It will feature a special tribute to Philip Berrigan, an Irish-American peace activist who died late last year.
"I look forward to the day when all Irish celebrations, whether in Queens or on Fifth Ave., will be known not for excluding, but for the hearty Irish welcome to everybody, including lesbian and gay people," Fay said.
"What we're hoping for is that people will decide with their feet."
Really 'Inclusive' St. Patrick's Parade Seeks More Than Just Gays
February 27, 2003
By Ron Howell
The St. Patrick's parade in Woodside is not just for gays but for anyone wanting to celebrate Irish links to other ethnic groups in America, a parade organizer said yesterday.
"There's such a beautiful diversity to the Irish community that maybe isn't reflected in the Fifth Avenue parade," said Barbara Ann Heffernan Mohr, co-chair of the Inclusive St. Patrick's Parade in Woodside.
Heffernan Mohr said she felt compelled to comment because the event, scheduled for Sunday, is widely portrayed as a gay rights march. In fact, she said, it is meant to portray Irish ties to a variety of groups.
The director of the traditional Fifth Avenue parade said Heffernan Mohr's words were a lot of malarkey.
"They are masquerading," said James P. Barker, executive secretary-director of the St. Patrick's Day Parade and Celebration Committee. The "Inclusive" event shouldn't use the name St. Patrick because its organizers don't "abide by the teaching of St. Patrick and of the Catholic Church," Barker said.
Heffernan Mohr acknowledged that the Woodside parade was formed four years ago after Barker's group refused to let gay groups march with their banners. But she said the stress on gay involvement was unfair and frightened off potential participants in Woodside.
"There were 12 or 13 people on the original committee, and eight or nine were straight," Heffernan Mohr said. "I'm a former nun and a widow. That's about as straight as you can get."
The Queens parade tries to reach out to various ethnic groups, such as Mexicans, that have historical connections to the Irish, Heffernan Mohr said.
"A lot of people do not know there was a group of Irish called the San Patricios who fought with the Mexicans against the Texans in the [1840s] war for Texas," Heffernan Mohr said. Several Mexican groups are expected to participate, organizers said. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other elected officials are also expected to attend.
Patrick Hurley, president of the Woodside Republican Club, complained that many in the Irish community are turned off by the countercultural orientation of the Inclusive parade, especially its acceptance of gay rights. He criticized Bloomberg for agreeing to march.
Protests Yes, But Queens March Finds Its Stride
March 6 - 12, 2002
By Stephen McKinley
Last Sunday's so-called alternative St. Patrick's Day parade took place along Skillman Avenue in Queens, under threatening rain clouds and a handful of protestors.
Several lesbian and gay groups helped organize the parade, which was started in 2000 in response to the continued exclusion of Irish gay groups from the traditional parade up Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.
Along Skillman Avenue, the marchers were accompanied by Latin dancers and a Korean drumming ensemble, as well as De Jimbe, an Irish-African music group.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg attended the march, despite lobbying from a local Republican group led by Pat Hurley, the veteran campaigner for Irish immigration issues in New York. Senator Hillary Clinton also attended, with Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and Democratic Rep. Joseph Crowley.
"As Republicans, as Irish Americans and as Christians, we are upset at the mayor, and we see it as a stab in the back, and we will make sure that people take account of that when poll time comes around again," Hurley told the Echo.
On Saturday, Hurley and parade organizer Brendan Fay debated the issue of the parade on the Adrian Flannelly radio show.
"My views are so entrenched and his views are so entrenched, so there was little to be said, really," Hurley added.
Fay and other parade organizers expressed satisfaction with the event that attracted somewhat more than 1,000, up from last year.
Protestors shouted "sodomites" at the passing parade, and the Tablet, the Brooklyn and Queens Catholic diocese newspaper, had urged its readers to boycott the parade in an editorial the day before.
One house on Skillman Avenue displayed posters attacking the parade in its windows, including a statue of the Virgin Mary holding a sign that read, "A blasphemous lesbian and homosexual parade."
There were also unconfirmed reports on the day that a local radio station had been contacted by someone posing from the parade committee, stating that the parade had been cancelled. Organizers said that it was a malicious attempt to derail the parade.
"This was our third year of holding the parade," said Fay, "and it was bigger. It grows every year. It has more support from within the Irish community and local community."
Hurley said that he saw only a handful of attendees at the parade as it entered Woodside, and added that he saw none of the politicians at the close of the parade.
"It was over in about 15 minutes. The groups there had absolutely nothing to do with Irish heritage," he said, adding that "none of the politicians marched into Woodside. Perhaps they didn't have the balls."