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Quinn's parade vision

By Ray O'Hanlon

The New York City Council marching contingent as an umbrella for gay and lesbian participants in the 250th New York St. Patrick's Day Parade.

That's the vision of New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, fresh back this week from a visit to Ireland where she met with, among others, President Mary McAleese.

McAleese was a parade committee first choice for grand marshal of the landmark event next March 15, but she pleaded scheduling conflicts in her final year in office as a reason why she could not accept the honor.

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McAleese neither confirmed nor denied reports that she did not want to lead the parade because of its long standing, and court-backed, bar on Irish gays marching under an identifying banner.

Gay people are not banned from parade, but such banners are. Being identified as gay, however, is seen as being crucial by Irish gay activists.

Quinn told the Echo is a phone interview Thursday that McAleese had reiterated that she could not make it to New York on St. Patrick's Day.

She did not elaborate beyond this on the conversation between the two, which take place at Aras an Uachtarain, the president's official residence in Dublin's Phoenix Park.

Quinn has not marched in the parade since a row broke out in 2006 over her desire to wear a gay pride lapel pin.

Quinn, America's best known gay politician, said that there had been talks with parade leaders since then, but as yet no breakthrough.

She said that it was her hope that gay men and women would be permitted to walk with the City Council marching group while wearing "a sash and sticker."

The sticker, she said, would be a shamrock in a pink triangle.

"We could all walk behind the council's banner while identifying ourselves in an appropriate and dignified manner," said Quinn.