Monday 23 April 2018

Taoiseach defends decision to participate in NY St Patrick's Parade

Taoiseach addresses St Patrick Day's breakfast in Boston
Taoiseach addresses St Patrick Day's breakfast in Boston
Taoiseach meets with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh

The Taoiseach today defended his decision to march in the St Patrick's Day Parade in New York, saying he is "happy to walk in it".

Despite the ongoing controversy over the exclusion of gays and LGBT groups from the parade, Mr Kenny will take part.

Speaking in Boston after attending a St Patrick's Day breakfast, he said, "I don't have any control over the conditions that are laid down by the organisers of the parade. From that point of view I have accepted  the invitation and I am happy to walk in it. Clearly from Ireland's point of view, as you know, Government has committed to holding a referendum on the question of gay marriage next year."

 "I think that speaks to the opportunity that Government are going to give for people to approve of the question to be asked in our Constitution next year. So from that point of view obviously the St Patrick's Day parade in New York, with our extraordinary connection between Ireland and the United States, and let's hope it's a good occasion."

The Taoiseach was meeting with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh who pulled out of taking part in the city's annual parade due to the continued ban on LGBT groups.

In a statement released today, Mayor Walsh said: "As mayor of the city of Boston, I have to do my best to ensure that all Bostonians are free to participate fully in the civic life of our city.

Unfortunately, this year, the parties were not able to come to an understanding that would have made that possible."

Mr Walsh, whose parents were born in Connemara, has marched in the Boston parade for years, but earlier this year he declared he would not march as mayor of the city unless LGBT equality groups were also allowed to take part.

However, he said that the situation between the parades in Boston and New York were different.

"We've had a lot of negotiations over the years. In New York there hasn't been negotiation in a while. So it's a little different between the two parades," he said before this meeting with Mr Kenny, adding that it had not been a tough decision to pull out of the parade this year.

"Everything was agreed upon in principle regarding the parade, around gay veterans and law enforcement to march in the parade. What it came down to was being able to have a banner with a sign on it, LGBT. That 's what it came down to in Boston. Everyone was agreed on all the other terms. I think if marching in a parade, you should be allowed to, able to carry that banner."

A coalition of Irish LGBT support groups have called on the Taoiseach to withdraw from the Fifth Avenue parade or otherwise to wear a Rainbow lapel pin to show solidarity with the excluded groups.

Tomorrow morning before the parade, the Taoiseach will have breakfast with New York Mayor Bill di Blasio who is also boycotting the event over the ban on LGBT groups.

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