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.


Paul Moses is the author, most recently, of The Italian Squad: The True Story of the Immigrant Cops Who Fought the Rise of the Mafia (NYU Press, 2023). He is a contributing writer. Twitter: @PaulBMoses.

Also by this author

Please email comments to [email protected] and join the conversation on our Facebook page.

© 2024 Commonweal Magazine. All rights reserved. Design by Point Five. Site by Deck Fifty.