TV & Radio
NY St. Pat's chairman compares gays to neo-Nazis
Fri Mar 17, 2006 2:24 PM ET
By Claudia Parsons
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The man in charge of Manhattan's St. Patrick's Day parade has fueled a controversy by saying allowing a gay group to join Friday's march would be like permitting neo-Nazis to participate in an Israeli parade.
In an interview with The Irish Times, parade committee chairman John Dunleavy defended the organizers' decision to bar the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization from participating in the biggest St. Patrick's Day party in the world.
"If an Israeli group wants to march in New York, do you allow neo-Nazis into their parade? If African-Americans are marching in Harlem, do they have to let the Ku Klux Klan into their parade?" Dunleavy was quoted as saying.
"People have rights. If we let the ILGO in, is it the Irish Prostitute Association next?" he said.
The Roman Catholic organizers of the New York event have long refused to let gays and lesbians march as a group because the church believes homosexuality is wrong.
In 1995 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that organizers of a St. Patrick's Day parade in Boston had the constitutional free-speech right to exclude gays and lesbians.
The gay rights campaigners' cause has been taken up this year by newly elected City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the first openly gay woman to lead the council and an Irish American.
She boycotted the Manhattan march after failing to persuade organizers to lift their veto. Quoted in The Daily News, she condemned Dunleavy's comments, saying: "They are so outrageous, I don't even think they dignify a response."
A SIDE ISSUE
As marching bands led by shivering cheerleaders, ranks of uniformed police and firefighters and revelers sporting green hats and shamrocks lined up to join the parade up 5th Avenue, several participants said the dispute was a side issue.
Kiki Culleton, a court employee from the Bronx, said Dunleavy's remarks were "a bit strong" but that organizers did not allow any group to march under a separate banner.
"It's all about the country of Ireland," she said, standing by the drum she plays in the New York State Courts Band. "It's an Irish Catholic Parade and our teachings, maybe not our personal beliefs, but our teachings say that's wrong."
St. Patrick's Day has become a citywide party in New York that sees bars decked out in green and hundreds of thousands of revelers from diverse backgrounds joining the fun.
Gay couple Vincent Frato, a 45-year-old photographer of Spanish and American Indian descent, and Jean-Charles David, a 31-year-old massage therapist from France, came to the parade in sweatshirts with the logo "Men in Kilts New York."
"In the Irish community here, there's a lot of firefighters and police officers and traditionally it's not a very gay-friendly crowd, but that's changing," David said, sporting a red tartan kilt that he made himself.
Frato said Dunleavy's comments did not reflect the views of most New Yorkers. "It's a very liberal city and outside of the parade organizers, everyone is welcoming," he said.
Nazi jibe over ban on gay marchers dampens St Patrick's Day parade
Oliver Burkeman in New York
Saturday March 18, 2006
As Manhattan's massive St Patrick's Day parade made its way through the city yesterday its chief organiser was being condemned for a bizarre outburst in which he said that allowing gay groups to join the event would be like allowing Nazis to march at an Israeli parade.
"If an Israeli group wants to march in New York, do you allow neo-Nazis into their parade? If African-Americans are marching in Harlem, do they have to let the Ku Klux Klan into their parade?" march chairman John Dunleavy said in a newspaper interview, reigniting an argument that has marred every St Patrick's Day in New York for the past 15 years.
Crowds of up to 2 million were expected to gather to watch the city's 244th parade. But the celebrations were clouded by Mr Dunleavy's remarks to the Irish Times. The chairman of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, defending his organisation's longstanding exclusion of gay marchers, claimed that allowing the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organisation (Ilgo) to participate would set a precedent. "If we let the Ilgo in, is it the Irish Prostitute Association next?" he asked.
"Welcome to pure, unadulterated homophobia: it's not pretty, is it?" Alan van Capelle, director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, a campaign group, told the New York Daily News. "It's shocking that Mr Dunleavy hates gay people so much. What have we ever done to him?"
Brendan Fay, the gay Irish-American activist who has spearheaded opposition to the ban for more than a decade, said he always wondered if there might be "peace brokered on the streets of Belfast faster than between the Irish on Fifth Avenue".
The Ancient Order of Hibernians has vocally opposed gay participation in the march since 1991, when members of Ilgo were denied permission to march but participated anyway, as invited guests of New York's then-mayor, David Dinkins. They, and he, were subjected to verbal abuse and pelted with beer cans.
Protests in the years since then have sometimes seen up to 60 people arrested. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has called on the organisers to reconsider their position.
Christine Quinn, an Irish-American who is now the first openly gay leader of the New York city council, was arrested in 1999. This year she had been negotiating with the march organisers in an attempt to resolve the dispute, proposing that the gay marchers abandon their banners and wear discreet buttons or sashes instead.
"It's a nice compromise, and then his response is this stuff about Nazis and the Klan," said Paul Schindler, editor of Gay City News, a New York weekly. "I wouldn't be surprised if there are people around him at the Hibernians wondering if there's some way they can ease him out of power."
'Everyone wants to be Irish' in New York parade
Protesters join St. Patrick's march after chairman's remarks
Friday, March 17, 2006 Posted: 2348 GMT (0748 HKT)
NEW YORK (AP) -- Protesters joined bagpipers, marching bands and thousands of flag-waving spectators at the St. Patrick's Day parade Friday after the parade's chairman compared gay Irish-American activists to neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and prostitutes.
As huge, happy crowds lined the streets, the chairman, John Dunleavy, sidestepped questions about his remarks to The Irish Times.
"Today is St. Patrick's Day. We celebrate our faith and heritage, everything else is secondary," he said before the start of the Fifth Avenue parade.
Dunleavy set off a firestorm this week when he told the newspaper: "If an Israeli group wants to march in New York, do you allow Neo-Nazis into their parade? If African Americans are marching in Harlem, do they have to let the Ku Klux Klan into their parade?"
Referring to the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization, Dunleavy said, "People have rights. If we let the ILGO in, is it the Irish Prostitute Association next?"
On Thursday, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is gay, blasted Dunleavy for the comments. Quinn, who is Irish, declined to participate in the parade after organizers barred an Irish gay and lesbian group from marching under its own banner for a 16th straight year.
"I can't deny who I am on any given day," said Quinn, who was arrested in 1999 for protesting at an exclusionary parade in the Bronx.
Quinn said the city's Irish gays had long hoped to march with their own banner, like other groups, but were willing to walk with the City Council as a unified group. "There were moments where I was hopeful that we could have come to some agreement. But that didn't happen."
Dunleavy told The New York Times in Friday's editions that Quinn "is more than welcome to march as the leader of the City Council, but no buttons or decorations in any shape or form."
Police on scooters positioned themselves between the marchers and about a dozen gay-rights protesters, who chanted: "We can march in Dublin, we can march in Cork, why can't we march in New York?"
Also barred from the parade was the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, which lobbies on behalf of undocumented Irish immigrants in the United States.
Efforts to let Irish gays march under their own banner date to 1991, when parade organizers first rejected an ILGO application. When 35 ILGO members marched with a Manhattan division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and then-Mayor David Dinkins, they were sprayed with beer and insults. It was the group's last appearance in the parade, which draws up to 2 million spectators.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was marching Friday, had urged the Hibernians to change their stance.
"I've always believed this is a city where all the parades should be open to everybody, and orientation, gender ... should not be the deciding thing," he said.
The mayor marched earlier this month in an inclusive St. Patrick's parade in Queens.
The city's main parade, with 150,000 marchers, is the nation's oldest and largest.
Scores of bagpipers, high school bands and Irish societies streamed past crowds waving Irish flags or wearing green hats, green carnations or green shamrocks painted on their faces.
Spectator Mary Sweeney, who moved to New York from Ireland 15 years ago with her two daughters, said, "I want them to grow up knowing their Irish heritage. Everyone wants to be Irish today."