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Irish gay group to march in 2016 parade

Brendan Fay (center) has been campaigning for years to secure a place in the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade for an identifiably Irish gay marching group.
Photo by Garry Rissman

By Ray O’Hanlon


A longtime campaigning Irish gay rights group, the Lavender & Green Alliance, has been given a place in the line-of-march for the 2016 New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

The move, which came after a parade Board of Directors meeting in Manhattan on Monday evening, represents the first time that an identifiably Irish gay group will march with the blessing of parade organizers.

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In 1991, the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization marched with then Mayor of New York, David Dinkins, but against the objections of the parade committee.

In a statement, the parade board of directors signaled the sea change and what is the culmination of over two decades of debate and argument surrounding the parade.

Said the statement: “The Board of Directors of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Inc., the not-for-profit organization which owns and operates New York City’s 253-year-old St. Patrick’s Day Parade, voted last night to invite the Lavender & Green Alliance to participate in the 2016 St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

“The Board also voted to renew the parade broadcast contract with long-time partner WNBC-TV 4, Board Chair John L. Lahey announced.

“The Lavender & Green Alliance will be the second lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender group to March in the historic parade, joining Out@NBC which marched in the 2015 parade and has been invited to march again in 2016.”

Parade Committee Vice Chairman and Chairman of the Parade Corporation, Dr. John Lahey, indicated that the timing of the inclusion of an Irish gay marching group was especially appropriate.

“Since 2016 marks the 100th Anniversary of the Easter Rising, the birth of Irish independence, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade March 17 is a special opportunity for renewed commitment to Irish values and traditions, and the Irish role in the 21stCentury,” Lahey said.

“We are working with the Irish government in this anniversary year to teach our young people the lessons of sacrifice and heroism, of love and tolerance, embodied in the Irish spirit.”

Brendan Fay, founder and chair of the Lavender & Green Alliance, hailed the inclusion of his group.

“We celebrate the welcome. St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 2016, will be a great day for hospitality and inclusion,” said Fay, who is a native of Drogheda, County Louth.

“The decision to invite an Irish Gay organization, The Lavender & Green Alliance/ Muintir Aerach na hEireann, by the Board of Directors of the St. Patrick's Day Parade sends a positive message across the Irish Cultural landscape,” Fay said.

“As LGBT Irish Americans we thank John Lahey and the members of the board for this historic decision which reflects the feelings of most Irish and Irish Americans. With the decision we cross a historic threshold and our members will proudly march up Fifth Avenue with our banner.”