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Wednesday 3 September 2014

Burton feels cabinet heat over NYC parade snub

Published 12/02/2014 | 02:30

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Joan Burton, Minister for Social Protection
Joan Burton, Minister for Social Protection

SOCIAL Protection Minister Joan Burton has come under fire from one of her own cabinet colleagues following her decision to boycott the St Patrick's Day parade in New York.

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A split has emerged between the coalition partners over the attendance at the event, which has been criticised for its exclusion of gay and lesbian groups.

Ms Burton's decision to boycott next month's parade is at odds with Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who has insisted he will attend.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar yesterday became the first cabinet member to criticise Ms Burton's boycott, which he said was counter-productive.

Mr Varadkar suggested that Ms Burton should instead lobby the organisers of the parade to make the event more inclusive.

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"I've rarely seen instances where boycotts have been successful in any way. I think it's better to attend any event but, at that event, to tell people what you think and what your view is," Mr Varadkar said.

"I think this Government is a very strong supporter of LGBT rights, we've demonstrated that in a number of ways, both with the adoption legislation that's forthcoming and the referendum next year. And I'd like to see us attending these events and saying that to the organisers and rather than boycotting them, because when you boycott things you just ignore it."

A spokesman for Ms Burton, who shares a constituency with Mr Varadkar, said she did not wish to respond to the remarks.

The Labour TD this week said that while she would travel to New York for St Patrick's Day, she would not attend such a parade until it became "more inclusive" of gay and lesbian groups.

"The St Patrick's Day parade . . . is a great fun day. But to me, it needs to be inclusive of the whole Irish cultural experience and the whole width and breadth and diversity of Irish people and descendants of Irish people who have gone to the United States," Ms Burton said.

A spokesman for Mr Kenny last night said the Government had not adopted a position on attending the parade and that the Taoiseach was looking forward to his participation.

Niall O'Connor Political Correspondent

Irish Independent

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