MAYOR of Clare Joe Arkins is standing by his decision to participate in the New York St Patrick’s Day Parade, despite a call to follow the boycott stance taken by New York Mayor, Bill de Blasio in support of gay rights groups.
Mayor Blasio has decided not to march in his own city parade over the long standing exclusion of American gay and lesbians publicly express their sexual orientation under a banner.
Councillor Arkins and Ennis Town Mayor, Mary Coote-Ryan have been invited by the Clare Association in New York to represent local authorities in the New York Parade.
Lesbian and Gay Bisexual and Transgender director Brian Sheehan from Kilrush has appealed to the two Clare first citizens to seriously reconsider their participation and follow the “moral leadership” shown by Mayor Blasio by opting out of the parade.
Stressing the two mayors should still travel to New York and attend any meetings promoting industry and tourism in Clare, Mr Sheehan would to see them promoting inclusiveness in Irish society abroad.
His appeal is supported by Ennis Town Councillor, Paul O’Shea who has sent a motion to
the Town Council to decline the invitation for Councillor Coote-Ryan to take part in the New York Parade, unless the ban on the exclusion of gay rights groups to participate is lifted.
He also requested that this motion be sent to all local authority councils throughout Ireland who have received an invitation to attend the New York Parade.
“I sincerely believe that in the interest of equality and inclusiveness we cannot stand idly by and let some in our society be treated as second class citizens on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Ennis Town Council should now take a positive decisive step to fight exclusion and discrimination and support the Mayor of New York Bill de Blasio,” he said.
Social Protection Minister, Joan Burton has also pledged to boycott this parade while she is in New York due to this exclusion.
Councillor Arkins said he understood Mayor Blasio took this decision for electoral purposes in a bid to attract more votes from the so-called liberal electorate rather than trying to appeal to the Irish American community.
Clare’s First Citizen also pointed out he understood that gay and lesbians could take part in the parade provided they didn’t march under a particular banner.
Stressing that he wasn’t homophobic, the mayor said it was appropriate for him to attend the parade and represent all Clare people at the request of the Clare Association in New York, who had organised a Gathering event in Clare last August.
Considering this association was celebrating their 125th anniversary this year, Councillor Arkins said this was a very important year for the group, which actively promoted links between the USA and the Banner county.
If Councillor Arkins didn’t participate, he considered this would be a slight on Clare people, the Clare Association in New York as well as new and long time Clare emigrants.
Councillor Ryan said she had great respect for Mr Sheeran, who has been to the forefront in promoting gay rights. She explained a decision would be taken on whether she or another councillor should attend the parade, if she was unavailable, at the next town council meeting.
Mr Sheehan said that any St Patrick’s Day parade should celebrate everything that is Irish including the lesbian and gay community in the changed Ireland.
“The St Patrick’s Day in Ireland is a much richer parade that does celebrate the diversity in Ireland now from the Dublin parade including lesbian and gay groups, which are part of the floats.
Having made a lot of progress in Ireland including marginalised groups such as the lesbian and gay community he would love to see this group fully participating in the New York parade.
“Until the New York parade allows the lesbian and gay community to fully express themselves in the parade, I would ask public representatives to consider why they should march in the parade and make decision about the type of Ireland they want to represent,” he said.