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Irish gov’t attends Queens parade

Mayor Michael Bloomberg squeezes in between dancers from Keltic Dreams.
Photo by Christina Santucci
By Joe Anuta

The LGBT marchers at Sunnyside’s St. Pat’s for All Parade are still not welcome at other celebrations around the city, but they were recognized by a government official from the Emerald Isle who joined prominent city officials and marched with the diverse crowd.

Sunday afternoon marked the 13th year of the celebration, which was started in 2000 after several openly gay groups were excluded from marching in parades in other boroughs.

But it also marked the first time the Irish government joined the march, according to Brendan Fay, an activist and original organizer of the event.

“The reputation of this parade is inspiring people in Ireland,” an ecstatic Fay said in-between cheering from some of the nearly 100 groups that participated in the procession.

Kathleen Lynch made the trip from Dublin. She is the Irish government’s minister of state, Department of Health and Department of Justice, Equality and Defence.

And even Ireland’s president, Michael Higgins, recently sent his regards to the marchers, according to Fay. Noel Kilkenny, the consul general of Ireland who was also at the Sunnyside event, said that in Ireland parades in larger cities often accept gay, lesbian and transgender groups.

He recalled a particular parade in the city of Cork in the early 1990s.

“First prize went to a gay pride group for best float,” he said.

Sunday’s parade had no shortage of LGBT groups like the Queens Pride Committee, who proudly marched along with bagpipers and groups like the Irish Language Speakers of New York, who study Gaelic, or the Brehon Law Society, which focuses on litigation issues in the Emerald Isle.

Occupy Queens and Occupy Astoria were among the marchers, as were colorful Bolivian dancers, a selection which according to Fay exemplifies the inclusiveness that typifies the annual Sunnyside event.

Diversity can be found in the parades of Queens and Ireland, according to Kilkenny, but the issue of gay marchers in the large Manhattan St. Patrick’s Day Parade is a matter for the courts.

Kilkenny was referring to two civil court cases in federal and state courts that were filed in the 1990s against the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the conservative Irish group that participates in running the annual 5th Avenue parade.

The court upheld the parade organizers’ rights to include or exclude whoever they want, according to Fay.

But he is often asked why St. Pat’s for All does not file for a permit for the same time and place as the traditional 5th Avenue parade.

“It’s weighed on my mind, it has,” he said. “Why reinforce the conflict of this? People are decided with their hearts and their feet.”

Fay would rather try and generate organic acceptance in Queens, and hopes in the future to have more support from bagpipers in the city Sanitation Department or the NYPD.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke at the St. Pat’s for All Parade, saying, “We’ve had some big successes in making sure America and particularly New York has been open to everyone. But don’t forget we have a long ways to go.”

Bloomberg’s office did not respond to a request for comment as to the 5th Avenue parade’s permit application to the city and if it could be awarded to other, more inclusive groups.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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