Kenny won't bow to gay pressure on St Patrick's Day parade
THE country's leading gay rights organisation is calling on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to boycott the controversial New York St Patrick's Day parade.
Mayor of New York Bill de Blasio is not taking part in the parade due to the organisers' refusal to allow gay groups to display banners.
But Mr Kenny is still expected to march in what is regarded as the world's biggest St Patrick's Day parade.
He will visit Washington, New York and Boston. His schedule is not yet finalised, so it is not clear if he will be in New York on March 17. But Mr Kenny has no reservations about marching in the parade.
"As I understand this from the organisers of the New York parade, they allow anyone to walk in the parade.
"They don't allow them to carry individual banners. It is my intention to be there in New York," he said.
The Taoiseach said he hoped the mayor would attend the annual Irish reception on the morning of St Patrick's Day. He did not express a view on Mr de Blasio's reservations about the parade.
"You should ask the mayor that question. I don't speak for the mayor," he said.
The Taoiseach marched in the parade last year.
Mr Kenny pointed out Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore attended the parade himself in 2011, just weeks after the Government came to power.
Mr Gilmore said he was aware it was an issue and discussed it with gay rights groups in New York.
"They encouraged me to participate in it. Their view was this was an important Irish-American event, that the Irish Government should participate in it," he said.
He said the groups asked that the Government would support their own St Patrick's Day parade, so junior minister Kathleen Lynch attended in 2012.
However, the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) is calling on the Government not to take part in the New York parade.
GLEN director Tiernan Brady said: "Considering the lead shown by Bill de Blasio, we want them to follow that lead.
"This is about whether lesbian and gay Irish people and lesbian and gay Irish-Americans are entitled to celebrate St Patrick's Day with other people. This is an exclusion of a part of Irish-American society."
Meanwhile, a campaign has begun to give Rory O'Neill, aka drag queen Panti Bliss, a prominent role in the Dublin parade.
Campaigner Buzz O'Neill said: "What a fantastic positive message Ireland would send to the rest of the world if it could somehow accommodate Ireland's leading lady of drag."