UK & World News
Gay Ban Stirs Tensions At St Patrick's Parades
A dispute over gay groups being excluded from St Patrick's Day parades has prompted the New York mayor and other officials to skip the celebrations and Guinness to withdraw its sponsorship.
Bill de Blasio is set to become the first New York mayor in decades to sit out the city's traditional St Patrick's Day parade later today.
Boston's Irish-American Mayor Martin Walsh also opted out of his city's parade at the weekend after talks aimed at allowing a gay group to march broke down.
The decision by Irish brewer Guinness not to participate in New York City's parade cost organisers one of their key sponsors at the annual event.
"Guinness has a strong history of supporting diversity and being an advocate for equality for all," the brewer said in a written statement issued by a spokesman for its parent company, Diageo.
"We were hopeful that the policy of exclusion would be reversed for this year's parade.
"As this has not come to pass, Guinness has withdrawn its participation. We will continue to work with community leaders to ensure that future parades have an inclusionary policy."
On Friday, two other major beer companies, Sam Adams brewer Boston Beer Co and Heineken, dropped their sponsorship of parades in Boston and New York respectively over the issue.
Still, thousands of green-clad spectators ventured out at the weekend to watch pipers and marchers in cities including Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago.
Enda Kenny on Sunday became the first Irish prime minister to attend Boston's annual St Patrick's Day breakfast.
Some lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) groups have promised to protest against the New York parade along Fifth Avenue, which every year draws more than a million spectators and about 200,000 participants.
Parade organisers said they did not want the event to turn into a demonstration for a particular group.