Irish gay rights activists protested against New York City’s St Patrick’s Day parade on Saturday after organisers again banned gay and lesbian groups from participating in the celebrations for the sixteenth year running.

Irish Queers, a New York based gay rights group, lined the city’s Fifth Avenue, and protested against the organisers which they later described as “religious-right bigots.”

“As we confront the parade year after year, we have seen it become increasingly political, and decreasingly Irish,” said a spokesman for the gay rights group.

This year, Irish Queers also directed their attack at the participating public services such as the New York Police Department (NYPD) and the Fire Department of New York (FDNY).

They claim that by participating in an event that bans gay and lesbians, such groups are also, “willing to trample the delicate, diverse fabric of the Irish community.

“Our struggle is not just with the parade organisers, but with NYPD, the FDNY and other public servants who use the parade to express sentiments of hate and superiority that are disallowed anywhere else.”

Irish Queers were not the only group to have protested against New York City’s emergency services.

At Times Square, African-American communities gathered to protest against the NYPD for the murder of Sean Bell, an African American who was accidentally shot by plain clothes NYPD detectives in an incident outside a club in New York’s Jamaica neighbourhood.

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.

As reported by PinkNews.co.uk earlier this month, Christine Quinn, the openly gay New York City Council speaker, boycotted the event in favour of Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Day.

She tried, unsuccessfully, to broker a deal with the organisers to allow gay and lesbian participation last year.

“New York City is the most diverse and welcoming place in the world – it’s a shame that for yet another year our St. Patrick’s Day parade won’t reflect that diversity,” she said.

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.

The New York event has historically attracted loud protest from gay rights groups.