Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Only Irishman In The Parade

It's the sharpest edge of the knife that Enda Kenny is walking these days.

An Taoiseach wants to be seen as "in touch" with the common people, but it's near impossible to know where those common folk (that is to say, the Irish voter) stands on certain key issues.

It was easier last year
The man who leads Ireland would of course be a popular guest at anyone's St. Patrick's Day parade, and Mr. Kenny has enjoyed his visits to New York City in the past. He's all about promoting the Emerald Isle for business and tourism, and his face is suitably Irish to get him noticed during a parade that features more politicians than Irish-Americans.

The non-politicians who organize the parade, however, are still closely aligned with the Catholic Church and their rules for parade participation reflect that fact. Groups promoting homosexuality and related causes are not welcome, and are not allowed.

So they're angry because the New York parade is one of the most prominent in the nation. They can't get the sort of free publicity for their issues that they'd like, and all because the public parade isn't run by City Hall and they don't have the same strong voice.

The rainbow of groups that wants to march has called for a boycott (another fine Irish word) and New York's mayor answered the call. He proclaimed that he wouldn't go. Which left Mr. Kenny in a tight spot.

With the gay/lesbian/etc. community divided on strategy, it was no wonder that some who were upset with New York's restrictive parade told Mr. Kenny to go right ahead and participate. In their minds, the boycott is not the right way to gain support. Let the parade organizers have their parade, filled with politicians and trade union VIPs. To make a huge fuss is to annoy the straight community that is looking for any excuse to point at the other and complain about the tactics and how they're spoiling things for the rest of us and who do they think they are, that tiny minority.

Besides, Mr. Kenny isn't running for office in the States and Ireland remains a morally conservative country. He could have faced more damage at home if he didn't go than if he did. By receiving the approval of a segment of the non-straight population, he gained enough cover to keep the peace. If there's anything an Irishman is after it's about keeping the peace.

Now the mayor of Boston, another corner of Irish-Americanism, is going to boycott the parade unless the homosexual groups get to parade with banners that trumpet their cause. This being Irish people we're talking about here, you can guarantee that the organizers are digging in their heels a bit deeper and hardening their resolve further in an act of stubborn refusal to bend.

Anything to tweek the party in power. Labour is calling for a boycott and criticizing Mr. Kenny for attending, while his party is talking up the importance of an appearance along with a wish that things were more inclusive but what can you do.

Does he stay or does he go?

With the parade about a month away, there is not much time to change plans without costing the government money, and there are those in office who make complaining about such expenditures their life's work. And Mr. Kenny dare not ignore another segment of the voting public. He'd have to answer to Mrs. Kenny if she doesn't get her shopping trip to NYC.

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