FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER Charlie Flanagan is facing a mixed reaction from Irish LGBT activists, after confirmation that he will attend this year’s St Patrick’s Day parade in New York, despite ongoing controversy surrounding the exclusion of Irish LGBT groups.
In response to queries from TheJournal.ie, a spokesperson for the Minister confirmed this evening that he intends to attend the march down 5th Avenue in Manhattan, noting that previous ministers and Taoisigh had done likewise.
Tánaiste Joan Burton last year publicly boycotted the parade, after Bill deBlasio became the first New York mayor in a generation to refuse to take part, due to the ban on openly gay groups.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny, however, joined the hundreds of thousands of participants on the 253-year-old route down 5th Avenue, saying the event was “about our Irishness and not about our sexuality.”
Irish LGBT activist Brendan Fay, who runs the alternative, inclusive St Pat’s for All parade in Queens, told TheJournal.ie he was “disappointed” with Flanagan’s decision.
Political leaders in Ireland should be working with political leaders in New York, like the mayor Bill deBlasio, to ensure that Irish LGBT people are welcomed in the St Patrick’s Day parade.
Ministers should be sending the message that the exclusion of Irish LGBT people does not reflect the Irish people or the Irish government.
Fay also called on Flanagan to lobby the parade organisers for that inclusion, between now and March 17th.
In September, organisers announced that for the first time ever, the 2015 parade would include a sanctioned LGBT group.
However, the move faced some criticism when it emerged that the group was composed of LGBT employees of NBC Universal – the event’s TV sponsor – rather than members of the Irish community.
It is understood that the decision came after the network threatened to withdraw sponsorship of the parade.
Last week, Guinness announced that the inclusion of an LGBT group in 2015 meant they would resume their sponsorship of the parade, after withdrawing it in 2014, the Irish Voice reports.
Tiernan Brady, policy director at the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) told TheJournal.ie that the inclusion of the NBC group marked a “sea change” in the event’s history.
This year is different. Obviously, the final goal is for everyone in the Irish-American community to feel welcome in the parade, but we hope this is the first, significant step forward toward full inclusion.
Originally published 8.05pm