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On St. Patrick's Day, a Mayor in Trouble with the Irish


First, New York's Mayor Bill de Blasio ran into criticism from fellow Italian Americans for eating pizza with a knife and fork. Now, it seems, he is in trouble with the Irish.

That stems mostly from his decision not to participate in the St. Patrick's Day Parade. He objects to the organizers' refusal to let an organization of gays and lesbians march as a group under their banner. But there are other perceived snubs as well, as The New York Times reports.

In the past, New York mayors snubbed the Irish at great political risk. Mayor Abraham Hewitt drew Irish ire by refusing to fly the Irish flag at City Hall on St. Patrick's Day. The Irish made sure to  vote him out of office in 1888.

Nowadays, no one even speaks of an "Irish vote" in New York, but rather of a white Catholic vote. It has diminished greatly, down to about 15 percent of the overall vote in the 2013 mayoral race, one analyst says.

But still, when one looks at the size -- and nowadays the diversity --  of the St. Patrick's Day Parade, it's hard to forget the major role the Irish have played and still play in shaping the nation's largest city.  The students paradiing behind the banners of the Catholic high schools are usually African American or Latino, and so are many of the marchers from the civil service organizations. Is there any other ethnic parade in New York that attract so many people from other ethnic groups to stand under its umbrella? (And in such windy weather?)

What makes this possible is that there are still influential organizations that carry the Irish way in their DNA: the police and fire departments, some of the unions, and especially, the Catholic Church.

A happy St. Patrick's Day to all.

Photo: Students from Cardinal Hayes High School march in the 2012 St. Patrick's Day Parade.


About the Author

Paul Moses, a professor of journalism at Brooklyn College/CUNY, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015).



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I am astonished to find that my grandson will be marching in today's parade with his high school! Brave boy! So cold. My perfect score of never having gone is up for debate.

The NYTimes story features a picture of the mayor and the cardinal as if that does for the bow to the Irish. I wonder. The cardinal seems to have promised space for the mayor's pre-K plan, but, of course, the space really belongs to parishes. We'll see how that works out.

But yes, Happy Saint Patrick's Day.

What makes this possible is that there are still influential organizations that carry the Irish way in their DNA: the police and fire departments, some of the unions, and especially, the Catholic Church.

And what is "the Irish way," pray tell?

Ambivalent as I am about my Irish heritage, I will be making cabbage stew with turnips, soda bread, watching "Miller's Crossing," and continuing the yearly tradition with my far-flung friends of sharing and voting for the worst version of "Danny Boy" we can find on YouTube. Tom Jones (who ripped off his song styling from the great Jackie Wilson) has won this dubious honor twice. Hardly anybody I know can make it through the whole thing, even though he doesn't even sing the last verse:

Also, St. Patrick was Welsh.


Was he Welsh? I thought he was French.

Wait a minute! He was a Roman.

The city is permitting this parade to occur on public space. Public dollars in the form of police security, logistical support, city planning, public works for clean up are being invested. No organization that openly discriminates against LGBT groups should be support by the public dollars. Nor should public officials support or allow it.


You're referring to Sevastapol?

You make my point!

Or is this a variant of American exceptionalism

Not to worry. The NYTimes will bludgeon everyone into having a gay rights banner in their parades, their liturigies, and their bakeries.

George D:  thank you for your sensible comments in the face of so much other balderdash.

This is the second time I heard that. The first time was as a child in the early sixties;I read a children's book borrowed from the Bklyn. library about St. Patrick that said he was French.I guess everything gets politicized.

Thanks to Paul Moses for starting this thread.  

For more on the 2014 political scene in the city and state of New York, one could read the op-ed piece by Patrick J. Lynch regarding a bill in the Albany Legislature offering a tax credit to benefit the desires of various constituencies, the Education Investment Tax Credit.  Please see the New York Post here:

I point out that this is a state tax credit, not a deduction from income.  Any money given donated through this credit would be a loss to the state revenue, and that loss would have to be absorbed by other programs.  

Lynch is President of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.  

Maybe some non-Catholic religious or private schools also support this tax credit, but Lynch does not mention them.

Seeing the Cardinal Hayes HS students holding the school banner takes me back 54 years to 1960 when I was a senior at Hayes and marched in the parade.  Good to see the school still has a presence in the parade despite the political rumblings that have marred this annual event.  As Fr. Jablonski always blared through the school PA system, "Up Hayes and all of its loyal men!"

Joe McMahon: Thanks, interesting article in the Post. The legislation, as described, has an interesting twist. The tax credit would go to all schools, public, private and religious. Since NYC public schools parents are always running fund-raising events to supplement their school's budget, just as religious and private schools do, this at least has the appearance of recognizing the contributions all parents make to their children's schools. Do you object to it?

@Margaret O'Brien Steinfels 5:52 pm.

The tax credit goes to the donor as he or she files NYS personal income taxes; the credit does not go to the school.  The citizen makes the donation to the receiving entity.  The Assembly version of the legislation, A  1826 is linked here:

It's appears a somewhat complex piece of legislation, requiring a lot of work to audit each individual credit.   My major worry is that it is a direct shift of tax revenue to a particular cause, a scholarship fund or a group of schools.  Those dollars don't come out of thin air.  Other programs will have to be docked that amount, or extra taxes raised. In general, I am not fond of tax credits other than the Federal Earned Income Credit.  I see this NY State legislation as rewarding the schools with the best lawyers, accountants, and fund raisers among their alumni, staff, and connections.  That is, the rewards will go to the institutions that can game the system.


I am pleased to see the adjective "non-profit" in the description of recipient private schools. That might rule out the for-profit chain that occupies the former St. Rose of Lima parish school in Parkville, Brooklyn.


The Senate already passed the bill.  Dean Skelos, majority leader of the Senate, has his district office in the block between Bishop William Murphy's residence and the chancery, Rockville Centre. The bishop gave the invocation for the first Senate session this year, January 9.  Is this an imitation of  the Madison Avenue Powerhouse?



An exile from Erin's green valleys since 1981, I nonetheless have my finger sufficiently on my compatriots' pulse to know that Ireland today is a liberal pluralistic society, and that Irish people feel very cheesed off to see the grand masters of the New York parade turn their backs huffily on gays and project a very ugly image of our fatherland.

And how can they call themselves Irish when they've lost Gunness?

I has been reported that Wilhelm Wilhelm drinks his Guinness with a spoon.

BTW -- the trade unions are well represented in the parade with their own separate contingent, and Grand Marshall Ahearn is head of the Operating Engineers Union in Queens. 

Guiness created the greatest beer commercial ever!


Appropos, the narrator at the ends says, "the choices we make reveal the true nature of our character"

A few points:

1. The ethnic diversity of the St. Patrick's Day parade derives from the fact that it is performed in honor of the patron saint of the New York Archdiocese; from the start multi-ethnic Ctaholic schools and parish organizations marched.

2. St. Patrick is the second patron of Puerto Rico. He used to be the first, when the main cathedral, St. Patrick's, was in Mayaguez when Mayaquez was a rich porrt, before geologic changes made it not a port. The marbe sidewalks in the New Cathedral Square in Mayguez, by the way, are inlaid with shamrocks. I accidently visited the town and the square on a  St. Patrick's Day.

3. St Patrick is very popular in the Caribbean. He represents the chief god in the Santeria/Voodoo cult of the Caribbean and the rest of South America.

4. St. Patrick's Day Parades in the USA were originally Protestant events. The Celtic cross is the symbol of the congregational church governance of the Prebyterians and the Congregationalists.


Many of the younger Irish ommigrants and Irish-Americans in New York favor the mayor over the cranky "Irish" spokespeople who parade through the media. Actually so do many of the older Irish who are children (like me) or grandchildren of Irish immigrants. The recent NY Times article on the brouhaha among "the Irish establishment Irish" points this out. It also points out that even most of the establishment is acting in a concilaitory way towards the mayor.

File under passe.

Guinness is wholly owned by a Bristish company.

Thank you. My father fought in the Irish War of Independece, my uncle (on Collins's side) was assassinated n the Civil War, my mother had her farmhouse burned down three times, and in my clan we are all disgusted with the parade organizers. As my unlce (in the USA) used to say, "We did not fight for 400 years to disestablish one church in order to estanblish another."

O.K., about the ethnicity of Patricius, son of Calpurnius:

Being French would have been a neat trick in (circa) 461.  Though the Franks had been infiltrating into Roman Gaul for several centuries, France had no more come into existence than England had.  Best information seems to have him born somewhere in Roman Britain.  He may have grown up in Banaven Taberniae, and that may have been at the mouth of the Severn, but if that made him Welsh then maybe George Romney should have been regarded as Mexican.  All in all, Mrs. Steinfels seems to have got it right: he was a Roman (in the by then well amplified sense of the word).


R P C Hanson's book on the historical St Patrick is an eye-opener -- he never studied in Lerins, kept sheep no on Sliabh Mish but in Co Mayo,  his birthplace may have been near Hadrian's wall etc.

St. Patrick was a Romanized Celt who was from Wales. He spoke an wrote in Latin.


Glad that's cleared up.

The French province of Brittany (Bretagne on the northwest coast of France) was settled by Celts from Great Britain.  Some of them still speak the Celtic language which is related to Welsh and Cornish.  Maybe St. Patrick's family was from this group or related to them, hence the various stories.

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