Miriam Lord: Leprechauns but no rainbows at Boston parade

This year’s St Patrick’s Day controversy is brought to us by the ‘Southie’ shindig

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone said: ‘If OutVets are not in the parade I definitely won’t be taking part.’ Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone said: ‘If OutVets are not in the parade I definitely won’t be taking part.’ Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins


This year’s St Patrick’s Day parade controversy in America is brought to us courtesy of the “Southie” shindig in Boston.

High-profile Irish-American politicians and parade sponsors deserted next Sunday’s march in their droves following a decision to ban a group representing gay military veterans.

OutVets marched in the last two parades but the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, which organises the occasion, excluded them this year because a rainbow on part of their banner violates the rules.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone had been due to march as a representative of the Irish government, but she will boycott the event if the decision is not reversed.

Zappone played a leading part in the successful campaign for marriage equality and famously proposed to her partner Ann Louise Gilligan on the afternoon of the referendum count. They married in Ireland last January.

“If OutVets are not in the parade I definitely won’t be taking part,” she said yesterday.

In 2014, she was parade grand marshal in her hometown of Seattle.

Zappone joins Boston mayor Marty Walsh, governor Charlie Baker, senator Ed Markey and congressmen Seth Moulton, Steve Lynch and Joe Kennedy on the provisional no-show list.

Dan Magoon, the veteran chosen as grand marshal, resigned when the organisers voted 9-4 for the ban.

Walsh appealed to people not to march until the situation is resolved. “I will not tolerate exclusion in our city in any form. We are one Boston, which means we are a fully inclusive city.”

The organisers, now at the centre of a media storm and on the receiving end of “numerous vitriolic and hate-filled emails from people who are uninformed of the facts”, rushed to explain their code of conduct was established “to protect the theme and historic integrity of the parade.

Since its founding in 1901, the parade has been a celebration of country, community, and the Catholic faith.”

It wasn’t a question of discrimination as they adopt a neutral position “on such issues” but they cannot “permit messages that conflict with the overall theme of the parade”.

And they don’t want to go upsetting people. “For example, previous displays of the rainbow coalition flag have led to the loss of support from Catholic organisations that had been in the parade since the 1940s.”

Bryan Bishop, founder of the OutVets group, told the Boston Globe that when the parade organisers told him that the rainbow patch on their logo violated the rules, “my jaw dropped to the floor.”

“They said people felt that rainbows represent the gay community,” Bishop said.

“I told them if that’s the case, then every picture of a rainbow in the parade that leads to a pot of gold needs to be removed.”

He refused a request to remove the rainbow.

However, there may be a happy resolution at the end of this particular rainbow.

The organisers, who never “officially informed” Outvets that they’re, eh, out, have scheduled an emergency meeting to discussion the situation.

So Zappone may walk in the parade after all.

Meanwhile, city councillor Michael Flaherty says the organisers should pay more attention to public order issues “such as public drinking and fighting”.

He tells the Globe: “The South Boston community needs to take control of the parade back or move it downtown because it’s no longer family and community friendly. It’s like Mardi Gras in South Boston.”

Oh dear.

Aon focal eile? Minister’s crash course in Irish speaks for itself

Credit where it’s due to Joe McHugh, Minister of State for the Diaspora and formerly of the Department of Arts and Gaeltacht Affairs.

When Joe was given responsibility for the Irish language in 2014, everyone had a great laugh after it turned out the Taoiseach gave the job to a man who couldn’t really speak it.

Poor Joe struggled his way though questions in the Dáil and if he wasn’t mangling his words in interviews it was only because he was trying to remember a few.

Enda Kenny didn’t see this as a problem. The Donegal TD was appointed in July and the Taoiseach told him to take himself off to the summer course above in Gleann Cholm Cille and he’d be grand.

It didn’t quite work out that way, although Joe applied himself to the task and, as the months passed, he continued to improve.

Now attached to the Taoiseach’s department, junior minister McHugh has kept up his Irish and this summer, he’s away to Glencolmcille again. The only difference is that this time, he’ll be the teacher.

“I’m back in the classroom in August,” he tells us. “I’ll be teaching Irish to people who want to refresh their knowledge and build on what they learned in school. I won’t be strict, nobody will have to stand in the corner.”

McHugh wants to concentrate on the spoken word. “A lot of people spent 16 years in school learning the language and while they can read and write a bit of it, they don’t know how to hold a conversation, and that’s what they would really like to do.”

To this end, he wants to pass on some of the learning tips he picked up over the last few years and he also want to help people get over “the fear factor – the fear of making mistakes”.

For more details, Oideas Gael in Gleann Cholm Cille on the Wild Atlantic Way are the people to ask.

In the meantime, Joe is off to Philadelphia this morning with his shillelagh under his arm and an excited and twinkle-eyed Enda Kenny in the next seat.

The pair are marching in the Philly parade on Monday.

The first of the big US parades takes place on Saturday afternoon in St Louis, Missouri where Minister for Jobs Mary Mitchell O’Connor is stepping out on behalf of the Government.

It’s a big day too for northside Dub John Saunders, who was appointed president and CEO of the global communications firm FleishmanHillard in 2015.

The company headquarters is in St Louis and John has been chosen as this year’s parade Grand Marshal.

A crowd of around 250,000 is expected for the annual spectacle, with 130 floats and bands and over 5,000 marchers due to take part.

Love and Solidarity: Paul Murphy’s wedded bliss

Socialist in Seattle – that could be a good title for a romantic movie.

Or maybe Solidarity in Seattle?

Or Spliced in Seattle?

With Paul Murphy in the Tom Hanks role.

It’s been a whirlwind week for the socialist TD for Dublin South West, both on the political and the romantic front.

At the beginning of it, he slipped away to America for a few days and when he got home, Paul was a married man.

Yesterday, his political party got a new name.

“Deputy Murphy, do you take this Anti-Austerity Alliance and promise to make it into Solidarity, for now and for evermore until ideological split we do part?”

“I do.”

There were moving scenes outside the gates of Leinster House on Friday when Paul and his colleagues Ruth Coppinger and Mick Barry celebrated their corporate rebranding, waving goodbye to their old “Anti-Austerity Alliance” and welcoming young Solidarity with her triple-barrelled surname to the fold.

On the long-form birth cert, she will be known as Solidarity People Before Profit.

They had toyed with other names, including “I Can’t Believe It’s Not The Socialist Party Party”, but they might have been confused with Richard Boyd Barrett’s “People Before Profit I Can’t Believe It’s Not the Socialist Party Party”.

Paul Murphy looked extra happy yesterday at the launch. That’s because he married fellow socialist Jess Spear in Seattle last weekend.

Jess is a climate scientist and political activist who ran unsuccessfully for the US Congress in 2014 on the Socialist Alternative Party ticket.

It was a quiet wedding but we hear the happy couple (Jess is from Seattle but moved recently to Dublin) are planning a big celebration party here soon for family and friends.

After a dry run, is it all back to the Áras for Traveller celebration?

The joyous scenes in the Dáil chamber on the night Enda Kenny delivered his historic speech formally recognising Traveller ethnicity brought joy to the heart.

Hundreds more Travellers who couldn’t get into the crowded public gallery listened in an overflow room on the Leinster House campus, in the entrance hut inside the gate and across the road in Buswells Hotel.

Afterwards, one might have expected a bit of a hooley. But, apart from a group of five with Kerry Senator Ned O’Sullivan, no Travellers appeared to have made it down to the Dáil bar.

There was, however, a short reception for activists in the offices of the Department of Justice on St Stephen’s Green.

If truth be told, it was a dull, dry affair – not least because there wasn’t as much as a glass of wine to be had.

On Thursday at the weekly meeting of the Dáil Business Committee, Ruth Coppinger (nee AAA, now Solidarity) remarked that a proper day of celebration should be held for the 500 or so Travellers who came from all over Ireland to witness the occasion.

She suggested the Mansion House as a suitable venue.

However, Cork Fine Gael TD Jim Daly felt the Mansion House, home of the Lord Mayor of Dublin, was too much associated with the capital city.

For a real sense of national occasion, he proposed going the whole hog and hosting the event in Áras an Uachtaráin.

Members from all parties and none thought this was a marvellous idea. The Ceann Comhairle immediately undertook to contact the Áras and said he would return to the committee with a reply as soon as possible.

Can’t say much better than that.

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