New York City mayor Bill de Blasio is boycotting the annual St Patrick’s Day parade in Manhattan next month over the exclusion of gay and lesbian groups breaking a long-standing mayoral tradition.
The recently elected mayor said he would not march in the parade due to the event’s prohibition on public displays of gay pride, making him the first New York mayor in two decades not to participate.
“I will be participating in a number of other events to honour the Irish heritage of this city and the contribution of Irish-Americans, but I simply disagree with the organisers of that parade in their exclusion of some individuals in this city,” he said.
Mr De Blasio has never marched in the parade as a public representative. The mayor's predecessors Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg marched every year.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny participated in last year's parade, which draws more than one million spectators along Fifth Avenue, a highlight of the Irish-American calendar in the city.
The parade’s organisers have said that gays and lesbians are welcome to march but that public displays celebrating being gay would detract from commemorating St Patrick and Irish heritage.
A group of gay rights activists and city officials pressed Mr De Blasio to stop public workers such as police officers and firefighters in their city uniforms, but the mayor rejected this suggestion.
“Uniformed city workers have a right to participate if they choose to, and I respect that right,” he said at a news conference on Tuesday.
William Donohue, president of the New York-based Catholic League, said in a statement that he was “delighted” that Mr De Blasio has boycotted the parade.
“I do not want to march with a public official who does not want to be associated with Irish Catholics,” he said.
Mr De Blasio has previously participated in the St Pat’s for All parade in Queens, New York, an inclusive, multicultural parade started by the gay and lesbian community more than a decade ago.
The Taoiseach is expected to meet President Barack Obama at the White House on Friday, March 14th and to attend the St Patrick's Day lunch hosted by the Speaker of the House John Boehner in the US Capitol that same day because Congress is in recess during the week of St Patrick's Day.
Details of Mr Kenny’s St Patrick’s Day visit to the US have to be finalised, however. It is not yet clear whether the Taoiseach will travel to New York for the parade.