This made the Irish papers a couple weeks ago but I only heard about it yesterday, when Councilman Danny Dromm made an issue of it: Mary McAleese, the president of Ireland, says she won't be able to attend the next St. Patrick's Day Parade, in New York, where she would have served as Grand Marshal. This would be a historic day -- the 250th anniversary of the event -- but according to the Irish Voice, McAleese made a conscious decision to bow out:
The turn down is said to be connected to the issue of gays being refused the right to march in the parade under their own banners, and McAleese's strong relationship with gay and lesbian organizations in Ireland.
As she will also be in the last year of her term in 2011, officials in the president's office were reluctant to become embroiled in a major controversy about her taking part in the parade, which has excluded gay organizations for over 20 years.
The Voice reports that organizers attempted to broker a compromise with McAleese, whereby she would have attended the huge, main parade as well as the much smaller, inclusive St. Pat's for All parade, held a few days earlier in Queens. But that would've been hard for her to fit into her schedule.
Dromm is openly gay and represents Jackson Heights. He is also of Irish descent, and sent a letter to the press yesterday, calling attention to McAleese's decision:
Regardless of her motive, President McAleese, a devout Catholic, has, in her decision not to attend, honored the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic’s promise of “cherishing all children of the nation equally.” Her commitment to this principle has been the hallmark of her career. Fighting for the decriminalization of homosexuality and the legal recognition of LGBT families, President McAleese has been at the forefront of expanding the rights of all Irish. With the recent passage of civil unions, Ireland has far surpassed New York in its commitment to equality. Notably, Irish legislators overwhelmingly passed the measure, another refection of how far Ireland has come.
Brendan Fay runs the St. Pat's for All parade, and said this to Irish Central:
I was not at all surprised by McAleese’s decision to decline. President McAleese is known as an inclusive bridge builder, a leader who is sincerely committed to bringing people together. A hallmark of her presidency has been outreach to all groups and communities in Irish society, including Irish LGBT groups.
McAleese's decision also drew praise from the Irish Queers group, which is pressuring the NYPD to stop marching in the parade.