The Mayor of New York City has spoken out after ending his boycott of the city’s St Patrick’s Day parade – which previously excluded gay groups.

The annual event – which attracts over a million tourists each year – has maintained a long-held ban on gay groups, due to the influence of anti-LGBT Catholic groups.

Due to the anti-gay policy, Democratic mayor Bill de Blasio has shunned the parade every year since his election– and the event has also faced a large commercial boycott and protests over the exclusion of LGBT groups.

However, the policy has been slowly phased out – and after some concessions last year, in 2016 Irish LGBT group the Lavender and Green Alliance will finally march under their own banner for their first time – marking a definitive end of the outright ban.

Democratic mayor Bill de Blasio has today confirmed that he will march in the parade next month, shoulder-to-shoulder with the LGBT marchers.

He told PA: “The St Patrick’s Day parade is a New York City tradition, but for years Irish LGBT New Yorkers could not show their pride,” De Blasio told the AP. “Finally, they can celebrate their heritage by marching in a parade that now represents progress and equality.”

Taking to Twitter, he added: “New York City just got a little bit better. Thank you, @StPatsParadeNYC! [clapping emojis].

“Let’s march! [clover emoji] [rainbow emoji].”

The New York City Council has also apparently ended its boycott of the event following the removal of the anti-LGBT policy, with a large contingent expected to march under the city’s banner for the first time since 2013.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito had previously shunned the event alongside Mayor de Blasio, in solidarity with LGBT marchers.

Brendan Fay of the Lavender and Green Alliance said: “We have had tremendous interest from everyone since it was announced last year that we would be marching on Fifth Avenue.”

He added that former Mayor David Dinkins, who vocally called for the ban to be lifted while in office until 1993, had also been invited to march. Mr Dinkins is 88.