The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

March 16, 2014

St. Pat's festivities kick off amid tensions in US

NEW YORK — St. Patrick's Day festivities were in full swing Sunday with the usual merriment of bagpipes and beer, but political tensions lingered in the northeastern U.S., where city leaders will be conspicuously absent from parades over gay rights issues.

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio will become the first mayor in decades to sit out the traditional march Monday because parade organizers refuse to let participants carry pro-gay signs. Boston Mayor Martin Walsh wasn't marching in his city's parade Sunday, either, after talks broke down that would have allowed a gay group to march.

Still, thousands of green-clad spectators came out for the parade in Boston to watch bagpipers, and organizers of a float intended to promote diversity threw Mardi Gras-type beads at onlookers. A similar scene played out in downtown Philadelphia.

In Georgia, the dome of Savannah's City Hall will be lit green, and several thousand people braved temperatures in the teens on Sunday to march with pipe and drum bands in Detroit and Bay City, Mich.

In Ireland, St. Patrick's Day provides the launch of the country's annual push for tourism, a big part of the rural economy.

"To Irish people by birth or descent, wherever they may be in the world, and to those who simply consider themselves to be friends of Ireland, I wish each and every one of you a happy, peaceful and authentically Irish St. Patrick's Day," Irish President Michael D. Higgins, the ceremonial head of state and guest of honor at Monday's parade in Dublin, said in a statement.

Ireland's head of government, Enda Kenny, became the first Irish prime minister to attend Boston's annual St. Patrick's Day breakfast Sunday.

But Kenny has resisted pressure, in both Ireland and America, to support the gay rights lobby's demand to have equal rights to parade on St. Patrick's Day and he planned to march Monday in New York.

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