John Aidan Byrne is the founder and president of Irish Pro-Life USA. He lives with his family in New Jersey.
New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade is outwardly a proud celebration of Ireland’s patron saint, and of the Christian faith and Irish heritage of her diaspora. It has been nearly 260 years since the holiday was first observed in New York — when such displays were banned in Ireland — and everyone ought to enjoy this year’s parade because, well, we’re all Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.
But now, the tables have turned. The parade has been coming to this moment ever since courts and politicians, fed by liberal interest groups, first started demanding that the parade bend to their uncompromising rule. Now this year’s mood has darkened even further, and celebrating the New York parade spectacle is more difficult.
A generation ago, homosexual activists, protesting on the sidewalks for inclusion as the parade went up Fifth Avenue, were banned. Today, after years of high-stakes political poker and commercial boycotts, they will march once again on Saturday, behind their own dazzling banner. No disrespect intended, but such public displays do not square well with the traditional family values of this historic parade. Some call such accommodation an insult to St. Patrick.
Alas, this year’s New York City parade is even more “all-inclusive.” That’s because abortion rights are in the line of march in this, the largest annual St. Patrick’s Day in the world. And while the parade hasn’t renounced its fundamental guiding principles — Cardinal Timothy Dolan, educated by Irish nuns, is slated to celebrate Holy Mass and review the parade from the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral — things are falling apart, the center cannot hold, to paraphrase the Irish poet W.B. Yeats.
For the first time in its illustrious history, don’t be surprised if many of the participating politicians from Ireland and New York will be celebrating abortion — not the memory of St. Patrick or the Irish exiles who built America’s tunnels and bridges. These elected lawmakers all helped make abominable history recently with the legalization of abortion in Ireland and approval of infanticide in New York State. Ireland’s Justice Minister Charley Flanagan (who’s listed as coming) and New York’s Mayor Bill De Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo (also both expected) have had their sickening taxpayer-funded dress rehearsals.
The Irish government, led by Fine Gael’s Leo Varadkar, hosted a rowdy carnival at Dublin Castle last year, right after the Irish people voted to repeal the pro-life Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution. In New York, the governor ordered the top of One World Trade Center to be lit up pink, after the state radically expanded abortion law.
This year is therefore a cultural tipping point for many watchers of New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day. These are the masses of people, many of Irish descent, who value tradition and are bothered by politicians peddling their extreme socially liberal values, contrary to the teachings of their faith and human decency.
The parade’s most famous banner has the words, “England Get Out of Ireland.” If ever the time was right, this year should feature a large pro-life contingent, bearing a banner proclaiming, “Abortion Get Out of Ireland.” But so far it won’t.
Yet pro-abortion lawmakers are expected en masse at Saturday’s parade. “It’s time to start disinviting these pro-abortion lawmakers from Ireland and New York,” one pro-life leader in Ireland said. “The kissing of the cardinal’s ring routine for pro-abortion lawmakers needs to stop.”
Another New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade insider told me, “We agree with you, but our hands are tied by City Hall.”
In other words, the parade has become a puppet of hostile outside forces. It is no longer effectively in the hands of parade people on the ground, an all-too-familiar approach in state-controlled regimes the world over, from China to Venezuela. (In theory, the parade is organized by a committee of lay Catholics with ties to the Ancient Order of Hibernians, which bills itself as a pro-life Irish American fraternal organization.) So, if passions run high along the parade route this year by people angry at exclusion, it won’t be by homosexual groups and other old-guard protesters.
Sadly, unless City Hall allows the parade to return to its historic roots, the only sensible thing would be a complete makeover. Disinvite all pro-choice lawmakers, to begin with. Alternatively, call it the New York City Irish Parade. The Archdiocese of New York may also need to weigh up its fond attachment.
But don’t do a jig while little babies in the womb have been stripped of all legal protections.