“Our parade is for Irish heritage and culture. It is not a political or sexual identification parade.”
There’s always been something particularly galling about the refusal of New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade organisers to allow people to march under LGBT+ banners in their parades.
Most of the city’s boroughs have relented and now allow gay people to march, however, Staten Island, one of the last holdouts, held their St Patrick’s Day parade this Sunday and refused permits to LGBT+ groups who wished to march under a banner.
“Our parade is for Irish heritage and culture. It is not a political or sexual identification parade,” said parade organiser Larry Cummings, who seemed to ignore the fact that military personnel (an implement of politics) were allowed to march.
What is so galling about a group of second or third generation Irish Americans, whose concept of Ireland and what it means to be Irish mightn’t be out of place in a Frank McCourt memoir, is that they smugly want to define Irish culture and limit the extent to which it can be celebrated.
Contravening Catholic Teachings
One of the reasons the organisers gave for refusing LGBT+ groups a permit is that gay identity is in contravention of Catholic teachings. To their minds being Catholic is central to being Irish and they remain so obstinate that they’ve said they’d even ban the leader of the Irish government from marching if he had any symbol illustrating that he was gay.
In terms of cultural appropriation, it doesn’t get much worse. Not only will they not allow a gay Taoiseach to march with his fellow Irish queer community members, but they ignore the fact that Ireland was the first country to vote to legalise gay marriage and that we are a global leader in gender recognition legislation.
The myopic attempts to link Irishness with Catholicism shows a fundamental lack of awareness about contemporary Irish society and its rejection of church domination over our lives as a result of decades of scandals which has exposed decades of moral bankruptcy.
In reality, the Catholic Church in Ireland is facing an existential crisis. One in ten Irish people identify as having no religion and while over 70 percent of people identify themselves as Catholic only 15 percent regularly attend church.
These parades, while selling themselves as a celebration of Irish culture, are nothing of the sort. What they celebrate is a highly romanticised Ireland which doesn’t really exist outside of tourist traps and Irish bars. There’s nothing romantic about exclusion.
The Irish American community and its leaders are up there with Miami Cubans in terms of being on the right of the political spectrum. If they want to celebrate Irish culture and identity, by all means they should do so, but they should at least familiarise themselves with the culture they’re celebrating.
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