After a two-year boycott of his city’s annual St Patrick’s Day parade, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio was finally a part of the city’s celebration this year – after a second LGBTI group was allowed to march under its own banner at the parade.
De Blasio who was the first mayor in more than 20 years to decline marching in the parade, joined the procession this year up Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue.
‘I’ve known so many members of the LGBT community who are Irish, who simply wanted to express their pride,’ said De Blasio at an earlier news conference two weeks ago.
He added: ‘And they wanted to know that they could do that like any other person.’
For years, organizers had disallowed LGBTI groups to march under banners identifying their sexual orientation. This had affected various sponsorships such as Heineken and Guinness, who declined invitations and dropped out.
At last year’s parade, organizers finally gave permission to the first LGBTI group, [email protected], to march under their own banner in the parade’s 254-year history. NBC Universal was the parade’s television sponsor.
Heineken and Guiness also returned last year after the organizers’ move to include the NBC Universal-affiliated group.
However, the group met opposition from some members of the public, having toilet paper thrown at them.
This year, alongside with members of [email protected], Irish American LGBTI organization – The Lavender and Green Alliance – joined in, officially forming the 2nd LGBTI group to do so.
The mayor was also joined by former United States senator George Mitchell, who agreed to lead this year’s parade as grand marshal after receiving assurance that the gay rights dispute was resolved.
The world’s largest celebration of Irish heritage, with New York City holding it for the 255th time this year, was expected to draw more than 2 million spectators and 200,000 marchers, including more than 100 bands. This year’s event honours the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising, the armed uprising during Easter Week of 1916 that led to Ireland’s independence.