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Saturday 20 September 2014

Taoiseach defends decision to march in New York's parade

Lise Hand in New York

Published 17/03/2014 | 17:52

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Taoiseach Enda Kenny meets members of the PSNI and Gardai Photo: Lise Hand
Enda Kenny marches up Fifth Avenue. Reuters/Shannon Stapleton
Demonstrators protest as members of the FDNY Pipes and Drums Em march during the St. Patrick's Day parade in New York. Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

The Taoiseach defended his decision to march in the St Patrick's Day parade which has been overshadowed by controversy over the exclusion of LGBT groups.

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"This is St Patrick's Day, the 17th of March 2014, 180,000 people will march in New York today, many of them are gay people and they march proudly in the St Patrick's Day parade, as I do myself," he said.

Mr Kenny was speaking before participating in the parade which was boycotted by the city's mayor, Bill de Blasio; also Guinness USA and Heineken USA withdrew sponsorship from the event over the prohibition on gays carrying banners in the parade.

However, the Taoiseach said, "I've been invited here, I think it's a real opportunity to continue to express the solidarity that we have with Irish-America," adding that the Irish government had sent a representative, junior minister Ciaran Cannon to the alternative parade. "This is Ireland's day and I'm proud to march for my country as its leader."

A small protest of about 50 gay rights campaigners waved banners and placards as the parade passed along Fifth Avenue.

Bronx resident Emmaia Gelman said, "the parade is so notoriously homophobic that the mayor won't march in it, the city council won't march in it, and it's losing sponsors."

The Taoiseach is due to meet with Mayor de Blasio in City Hall later today.

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