Irish gays protest at New York parade

Posted on 23 Mar 2006 at 7:22pm
By Verena Dobnik – Associated Press

Parade chairman’s remarks comparing gays to KKK, Nazis enrages GLBT activists

NEW YORK Protesters joined bagpipers, marching bands and thousands of flag-waving spectators at the St. Patrick’s Day parade after the parade’s chairman compared gay Irish-American activists to neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and prostitutes.

As huge, happy crowds lined the streets on MARCH 17, the chairman, John Dunleavy, sidestepped questions about his remarks to The Irish Times.
“Today is St. Patrick’s Day. We celebrate our faith and heritage, everything else is secondary,” he said before the start of the Fifth Avenue parade.

Dunleavy set off a firestorm LAST week when he told the newspaper: “If an Israeli group wants to march in New York, do you allow Neo-Nazis into their parade? If African Americans are marching in Harlem, do they have to let the Ku Klux Klan into their parade?”

Referring to the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization, Dunleavy said, “People have rights. If we let the ILGO in, is it the Irish Prostitute Association next?”
On MARCH 16, Christine Quinn, the City Council’s first openly gay leader, blasted Dunleavy for the comments. Quinn, who is Irish, declined to participate in the parade after organizers barred an Irish gay and lesbian group from marching under its own banner for a 16th straight year.
The city’s parade, with 150,000 marchers, is the nation’s oldest and largest.
Scores of bagpipers, high school bands and Irish societies streamed past crowds waving Irish flags or wearing green hats, green carnations or green shamrocks painted on their faces.

Spectator Mary Sweeney, who moved to New York from Ireland 15 years ago with her two daughters, said, “I want them to grow up knowing their Irish heritage. Everyone wants to be Irish today.”

Police on scooters positioned themselves between the marchers and scores of gay-rights protesters, who chanted: “We can march in Dublin, we can march in Cork, why can’t we march in New York?”

Also barred from the parade was the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, which lobbies on behalf of undocumented Irish immigrants in the United States.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, March 24, 2006.

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