Ireland’s Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore

Ireland’s Foreign Minister, Eamon Gilmore, has criticised the continued ban on gay groups taking part in the annual New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade, reports The Irish Voice.

While the parade, held every March 17, cannot stop individual gays and lesbians from participating, it has refused to allow LGBT groups and organisations to take part.

“What these parades are about is a celebration of Ireland and Irishness,” Gilmore said at meeting with LGBT activists in New York on Wednesday.

“I think they need to celebrate Ireland as it is, not as people imagine it. Equality is very much the centre of who we are in our identity in Ireland,” he said.

“This issue of exclusion is not Irish, let’s be clear about it. Exclusion is not an Irish thing… I think that’s the message that needs to be driven home.”

The parade is organised by a Catholic group, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and attracts around 150,000 participants every year.

Last year, Irish President Mary McAleese declined an invitation to be the grand marshal of the parade because of the organisers’ discriminatory policy.

In 2007, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, criticised the parade’s organisers: “I think all parades in this city should be open to everybody, no matter what your orientation or ethnicity or anything else is.”

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