The Mayor of New York City has criticised the organising committee of the city’s famous St Patrick’s Day parade for banning gay and lesbians from participating.

Michael Bloomberg, the city’s leader since 2002, will march in the parade.

“I think all parades in this city should be open to everybody, no matter what your orientation or ethnicity or anything else is,” Mr. Bloomberg said yesterday.

New York City Council speaker Christine Quinn, who is openly gay, has announced she will march in Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Day parade this year.

The move is a direct snub to organisers of the New York City parade who have again banned gay and lesbian groups from participating in the event.

Quinn, a Democrat and second-most important city official after Mayor Bloomberg, will march in the Dublin parade on March 17th after being personally invited by officials.

She is expected to be joined by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, the speaker of the Lower House of the Irish Parliament, and Dublin City Council members.

“My participation in Dublin’s parade is an opportunity to march openly as a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community, something we have not been able to do in New York City,” Quinn said.

“I hope my participation in the Dublin march will send a message about the importance of inclusion,” she added.

The New York City parade is organised by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, an Irish-Catholic fraternal organisation.

They have refused to allow gay and lesbian groups to march in the parade since 1991.

Last year parade organiser John Dunleavy caused outrage with these comments to The Irish Times:

“If an Israeli group wants to march in New York, do you allow neo-Nazis into their parade? If African Americans are marching in Harlem, do they have to let the Ku Klux Klan into their parade?

“People have rights. If we let the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organisation in, is it the Irish Prostitute Association next?”

The parade in New York is one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day events in the world.

In 2006 more than 150,000 marchers took part in the procession and around 2 million spectators watched on from the streets.

Dublin boasts a five-day festival and in 2006 over 500,000 people attended the parade.

The New York event has historically attracted loud protest from gay rights groups. In the psat several hundred arrests were made on average each year.

Quinn is optimistic that New York’s gay and lesbian communities will eventually be able to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. In 2006 she said:

“I continue to hope and I firmly believe that someday soon Irish LGBT New Yorkers will proudly and openly march up Fifth Avenue on St. Patrick’s Day.”