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 www.stpatsforall.com
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 www.stpatsforall.com
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, th