PHOTOS: St. Pat’s for All parade celebrates Irish heritage and LGBTQ+ pride

The brother of the late Tarlach Mac Niallais, Councilwoman Julie Won, NY AG Tish James and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney march in the St. Pat’s for All Parade in Sunnyside on March 6, 2022. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

The luck of the Irish was on the side of St. Pat’s for All revelers as the rain stopped just in time for the parade to kick off around 1 p.m. in Sunnyside on March 6, 2022.

Last year, the parade, which has been a beacon of inclusiveness and a celebration of Queens’ diversity since its inception more than 20 years ago, was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, with many COVID restrictions lifted, the second-largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City showed that the city, along with its energy, is bouncing back.

If one needed proof, all they had to do was look at the many beaming “naked” smiles, which masks had hidden for two long years.

Queens native and Councilwoman Tiffany Cabán was excited to see the “beautiful celebration of the intersection of so many different identities.”

Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz (second from right) poses for a photo with activists before the St. Pat’s for All Parade in Sunnyside on March 6, 2022. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

“I love it,” Cabán said. “As a queer person myself, being able to be in community and see so many people who are part of our community but also neighbors, supporting, being allies. This is great.”

She referred to the parade as an act of resistance rooted in love and the community and that it stood in contrast to the Staten Island St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which once again had excluded LGBTQ+ organizations from participating.

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards pointed out that Queens, one of the hardest-hit boroughs during the pandemic, represents 190 countries and that the parade was a true testament to the borough’s diversity and the love Queens has for the LGBTQ+ community.

“Queens is back,” Richards proudly declared. “It feels good to be here, celebrating our inclusiveness, unlike some other boroughs.”

NYC Public Advocate and candidate for New York governor Jumaane Williams and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards enjoy the St. Pat’s for All Parade in Sunnyside on March 6, 2022. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

His message to the St. Patrick’s Day organizers of the “forgotten” borough was clear.

“It’s 2022. Get with the program. Stop with the divisiveness. It is 2022,” Richards said. “It was never right before in any other year either, but to not include the LGBTQ+ community in a parade is disgraceful. And they need to get with the program. This is New York City.”

Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas recalled that the last time they marched was in 2020, shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, and she was “thrilled” that the event was back. She also emphasized that there was no place for hate in New York City and pointed out the historical aspect of the St. Pat’s for All Parade.

“I’m proud to be part of Queens, that we created the first-ever inclusive St. Pat’s for All parade,” González-Rojas said. “And as things have changed gradually, it’s a sign of the times, but this is really unfortunate that they are still excluding the LGBT community.”

Families line the street celebrating their Irish roots at the St. Pat’s for All Parade in Sunnyside on March 6, 2022. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

Councilman Keith Powers, who is Irish American and heads the Irish Caucus in the City Council, said that St. Pat’s for All was symbolic for its inclusiveness.

“One, this community was a large Irish community where my family lived when they came here to New York City, so it’s good to be here in a place that has a long Irish tradition,” Powers said. “And also, this parade has been symbolic for its inclusivity throughout its time here and really at a moment where we need it to embrace and show every New Yorker they can be part of our community. This parade served as that sign.”

He said he was still speechless that a St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City didn’t embrace all New Yorkers, especially since the Irish American community has a strong and vibrant LGBTQ+ population.

“It is disappointing to see that the Staten Island parade still wants to shut out New Yorkers and deny them that they are part of the Irish American community. It’s ridiculous,” Powers said.

Families line the street celebrating their Irish roots at the St. Pat’s for All Parade in Sunnyside on March 6, 2022. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

Before the parade went underway, speakers paid tribute to the late LGBTQ+ activist Tarlach Mac Niallais, who died of COVID-19 on April 1, 2020, at 57.

Mac Niallais immigrated from Ireland to New York City in the 1980s. The LGBTQ+ and disability rights activist campaigned tirelessly to allow LGBTQ+ organizations to march under their own banners in the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

His two brothers recalled that he became politically active while growing up in Belfast and described him as warm and intelligent.

“His legacy will live on as long as we do,” one of his brothers declared.

The brothers of the late LGBT activist Tarlach Mac Niallais pay tribute to his legacy before the St.Pat’s for All Parade. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer remembered that he was at the parade in 2020, the last time Tarlach Mac Niallais marched in the parade.

“It was an amazing day,” Schumer said. “And we do remember those who were lost in COVID. Far too many, many more who are mourning those who are lost. Every one of us can fit into that category, unfortunately.”

Schumer also called on the crowd to think of and pray for the “brave Ukrainian people who are fighting the good fight.”

He said he had spoken to Ukrainian President Zelenskyy on Saturday, who told him he needed airplanes.

“I am putting pressure on our administration and working with our administration to get them the planes they need,” Schumer said. “Because they cannot allow the massacre of their people to continue.”

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Irish Consul General Helena Nolan, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, NY Attorney General Tish James, and Lt. Governor Brian Benjamin march in the St. Pat’s for All Parade in Sunnyside on March 6, 2022. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

Along the parade route, which stretched from 43rd Street and Skillman Avenue to 58th Street and Woodside Avenue, many paradegoers — decked out in emerald green, waving Irish and LGBT flags — cheered on the many marching bands, Irish groups and LGBTQ+ organizations like the Lavender and Green Alliance.

Jay Walker, a co-founder of Gays Against Guns, was excited to participate in St. Pat’s for All and glad that the weather had held up.

“I expect to see just tons of queer people and our allies. And just fabulous New Yorkers being together,” Walker said. When asked about the fact that Staten Island’s St. Patrick’s Day parade once again nixed the participation of LGBTQ+ organizations, he laughed and said, “It’s Staten Island. It’s exactly what I’d expect from Staten Island.”