Long life

Dear Bill de Blasio: there are better reasons to boycott the St Patrick's Day parade

This ghastly event seems to be the only one of New York's many national parades in which gay advocacy groups have any interest

8 March 2014

9:00 AM

8 March 2014

9:00 AM

The new mayor of New York, who despite his name (Bill de Blasio) claims Irish ancestry, is boycotting this month’s St Patrick’s Day Parade because its organisers refuse to allow a contingent of gays and lesbians to march up Fifth Avenue as an identifiable group bearing the insignia of gay pride. This is not exactly surprising, because the New York St Patrick’s Day event, claimed to be the oldest such parade in the world, is more or less controlled by the Roman Catholic Church, which doesn’t encourage displays of gay self-congratulation. Although the parade was started in the 18th century by Protestant Irish troops in the British army, it was run for more than a century by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, an institution created to advance the interests of Irish Catholics in America and to protect them from persecution; and it is now still effectively ruled by the Church in the person of Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the conservative Archbishop of New York.

Mayor de Blasio, preaching diversity and inclusivity as the defining characteristics of New York City, won’t join the parade on 17 March, St Patrick’s Day, but chose instead to attend last Sunday’s rival ‘St Pat’s for All’ parade in the borough of Queens, organised by gay advocates, including a group called ‘Irish Queers’. The Irish Queers have urged the mayor to forbid city workers — policemen, firemen, etc. — to wear their uniforms, as they always have done in the past, during the 17 March ‘bigoted parade’, but this he has refused to do. As the New York Times put it, ‘it has left him charting a perilous route between the city’s traditional Irish enclaves and the progressive advocates emboldened by his leftward leanings’.


Now, it is perfectly true that participation in the St Patrick’s Day parade in New York is by no means confined to Irish people or Catholics. It is an orgy of Irish kitsch in which Fifth Avenue is thronged with faux Irishmen wearing green — Ukrainians, Poles, Russians, and so on — and it has always included a strong element of anti-Britishness, the inevitable corollary of American pro-Irishness, which makes it especially distasteful to me. But Maureen Dowd, the celebrated New York Times columnist, is equally revolted by it, despite the fact that she is of Irish ancestry and that her father was once president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. She was writing the other day that she had long opposed gays marching in the St Patrick’s Day Parade, but not because she had anything against gays. It was because, she said, ‘I have something against Irish parades. It has always seemed strange to me that gays were fighting so hard for so long to bust into such a hoary, boozy, corny tradition. Didn’t they have something more fun and cool to do?’

Nevertheless, this ghastly event is the only one of New York’s many national parades in which gay advocacy groups have any interest. Do they want to march under their own colours in the Chinese New Year Parade or the National Tartan Day Parade or the Greek Independence Day Parade or the Puerto Rico Day Parade or the West Indian Carnival? I don’t think so. Yet, the St Patrick’s Day Parade, being the oldest and grandest of these, is seen by them as one of those prestigious institutions in which they deserve full group participation, even though it has nothing to do with any gay cause. The fact that New York, like London, has its own annual Gay Pride march is no compensation. The whole controversy is dreary and futile.

Until Ken Livingstone, as mayor of London, decided in 2002 to spend £100,000 of taxpayers’ money on celebrations to mark St Patrick’s Day in London, we were spared any such public event here; but now we have one, too, still sponsored by the mayoralty, which is about to happen again in Trafalgar Square on Sunday week. Livingstone was criticised at the time for failing to produce any money to celebrate the feast day of St George, the patron saint of England. But thank heavens he didn’t. It is one of the glories of England that we don’t go in for this kind of thing. And it is another matter of pride that we English, almost alone among the peoples of the world, feel no need to celebrate our presence in New York by marching up and down it.

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  • mameloshn

    Dear “Glories of England”, in fact LGBTQ groups do march in the NYC Puerto Rican parade and the Chinese/Lunar New Year parade, do some research. And go easy on the colonial self-righteousness, it doesn’t suit 2014 any more than does homophobia.

    • Terry Field

      I dot have to have my country’s very fine history reduced by a culture entirely concerned with global economic exploitation and military arrogance,
      Under your country’s all-too violent watch, industrialised killing has continued around the world; and much of it as a mechanism to extend your wealth, and your bigotry.

    • Roy Burns

      Colonial self righteousness is a hard habit to break in some English circles.

  • La Fold

    The ST PAtricks day parade where they march through the streets in Scottish Kilts and play scottish bagpipes? Mixed up kiddies.

    • Harry Peters

      The parade is ridiculous. But these are gaelic traditions that weren’t Scottish until invented by Walter Scott in the early 19th Century.

      • La Fold

        Very true, you can also throw in the highland games into that list too, The modern kilt has pretty much no relation to the traditional Filibeg. However the kilts they wear and bags they play are all of the Scottish design.

        • Harry Peters

          Very likely. It is ironic that the Scots – having cleared out the Gaelic Highlanders – appropriated their traditions as national icons.

        • kevin

          The bagpipes were given to the Scots by the Irish, Whiskey was given to the Scots by the Irish, the first King of Scotland was Irish, his name was Kenneth MC Alpine . He was of a tribe known as the Scoti who came from Ireland in the 5th century.
          And for whom the country is called after, therefore the Scots are Irish in disguise. Who are the mixed up kiddies then

          • La Fold

            Certainly anyone with a slight grasp on history knows that the tribe called the Scotii by the Romans came to Caledonia and then took over the Pictland with it thus becoming Scotland.
            However the modern bagpipes were certainly not given to the Scots by the Irish. They like the kilt, were a Victorian invention and represented a romaticised version of the Highlander which had became popular. These symbols were adopted by Irish nationalists in the late 19th century. So, mixed up kiddies.

          • Sarah Roscoe

            Not so. The bagpipes are indeed of Irish cultural origin. You appear to be inventing scenarios to suit your cause. Some research into the bagpipes and their Irish origin would set you straight.

          • La Fold

            Oh dear. various types of pipes were played from the isle of Hibernia around the north coast of Africa and into the hinterlands of the Persian gulf, and had been for eons. Inventing causes? So Irish Nationalists didnt start adopting Highland dress and symbols in the 19th century then?
            The fact of the matter pipes that are played at the St Patricks day parades and the kilts that are worn, are of all of the Scottish design, which in turn were a romanticised invention of the Victorians.

          • Sarah Roscoe

            No they weren’t. And no amount of condescending tone will make it so. Sorry that it bothers you so – it shouldn’t. I shall leave you to it.

  • balance_and_reason

    I really think the LGBTQDZ sector gets way too much column/TV space bearing in mind their max 5% representation in society. Move on….all of you.

    • The Laughing Cavalier

      Closer to one percent than five.

      • Terry Field

        probably less than that.

        • amajamus

          That’s even better!

  • Terry Field

    Good for the Irish New York parade organisers.
    The militant gays will try to gatecrash any and every event that they wish to.
    They should be confronted when their presence is inappropriate.

    • Harry Peters

      You and the Catholic Church may say it is inappropriate. Others do not agree. Clearly this is not a religious parade – it is an ethnic pride day and all should be welcome.

      • eilismaura

        yes – an ethnic pride event
        sexual orientation is not the issue

        so march with one’s county or occupation
        and leave the LGBT activist stuff aside

      • Sarah Roscoe

        All ARE welcome. Just not as wavers of sexuality in the face of parents accompanied by young children at an inclusive event.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    “Oh Ireland must we leave you driven by a tyrant’s hand
    To seek a Mother’s blessing in a strange and distant land
    Where the cruel cross of England shall never more be seen
    And in that land we’ll live and die still wearing Ireland’s green”

  • Harry Peters

    An arrogant and smug closing paragraph.

    It is unfortunate that there is not a St George’s Day Parade in London though not for the reasons this author suggests. I suspect it would be hijacked by the likes of the EDL and look like an Orange Order Parade in Northern Ireland. Too bad: England has much to be proud of and to celebrate.

    • Roy Burns

      Alexander Chancellor is finding it hard to restrain himself. His stiff upper lip is quivering.

  • Roy Burns

    Alexander Chancellor is proud of the fact that the English ‘almost alone’ don’t feel the need to march up and down the streets of New York is an astute and insightful observation given that no one would show up to watch the English march up and down the streets of New York or any other street in America. Thank god for a small mercy. England’s secret envy disguised as contempt. Now I’m off to this year’s new York Parade come Saturday.

  • Harpro208

    The new mayor of New York, who despite his name (Bill de Blasio) claims Irish ancestry”
    Eamon de Valera doesn’t sound very Irish either. After he helped his fellow Irish win their freedom from England, he helped write the Irish Constitution and served as head of state and head of government.

  • Sarah Roscoe

    New Flash: When women marry the vast majority choose to adopt the surname of their husband. Hence many Irish people do not have an Irish-sounding surname. Tune in next week to learn why Irish people exist who happen to have tanned skin.

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