Varadkar defends Kenny role in New York parade

Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar has defended Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s decision to march in the controversial St Patrick’s Day Parade in New York.

Varadkar defends Kenny role in New York parade

New York’s newly elected Democratic mayor Bill de Blasio is boycotting the parade that has banned posters and banners promoting gay rights or issues.

The Ancient Order of Hibernians, an Irish Catholic organisation, have organised the event.

“They are probably a little bit old-fashioned but they are not bigots; they are not bad people. They are not running apartheid in South Africa,” said Mr Varadkar.

“What I would like to see is Enda Kenny participating in the parade and telling the Ancient Order of Hibernians a little bit about modern life in Ireland,” he said on RTÉ radio yesterday.

Asked if he felt Mr Kenny’s presence at the parade would be in any way offensive to Irish gay people, Mr Varadkar said the best way to achieve equality for all was to engage with those in the middle ground, not ignore them.

Referring to next year’s referendum on same-sex marriage, Mr Varadkar said he wanted it to be won by a “really big” margin so that it would make a big statement about Ireland. The minister was speaking prior to announcing the Global Greening for St Patrick’s Day, now in its fourth year.

Tourism Ireland has arranged for the ‘greening’ of 70 different buildings and public areas around the world.

Joining the Global Greening for the first time this year is the ancient city of Petra in Jordan; Whistler, Canada’s famous ski resort; and the Rhine Falls near Zurich, one of the highest waterfalls in Europe.

Other first-timers are the Holmenkollen ski jump in Oslo and the Skiwelt Soll ski resort in Austria.

The pyramids in Egypt and Niagara Falls on the border between Canada and the US are set to go green again this year.

Tourism Ireland will spend €23.5m in the first half of this year but Global Greening will only use up a fraction of the budget.

“The Global Greening is very inexpensive but it gets us a huge amount of publicity around the world by reminding people that it is St Patrick’s Day,” Mr Varadkar said.

The minister, who will be in Georgia in the US on March 17, said sites in Ireland would also be going green on the national holiday and he expected to make an announcement very shortly.

Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbins hailed the addition of the Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland, Paris, and the eagerness of people worldwide to take part: “More than 70m people around the world claim links to the island of Ireland and St Patrick’s Day is a truly unique opportunity to reconnect them with their heritage.”

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