Cease-Fire Adds Gloss to Annual St. Pat's Parade

from Associated Press

The nation's oldest St. Patrick's Day parade stepped off Friday against a poignant backdrop of the tentative peace in Northern Ireland, although the celebration of Irish pride again was divided by discord at home.

About 300 members of the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization, denied permission to march under their own banner, demonstrated on a sidewalk in morning traffic two hours before the parade.

Dozens locked arms. After they ignored a warning to get out of the street, police booked 88 people for disorderly conduct, resisting arrest or both. But the protest had little impact on the main event.

This year, New York's Irish community is buoyed by the cease-fire between the Irish Republican Army and pro-British Protestant militants in Northern Ireland.

Friday's march also marked the 150th anniversary of the potato famine that ravaged Ireland in 1845, triggering the massive flow of immigrants to America.

Cardinal John J. O'Connor, the first archbishop of New York to serve as honorary parade marshal in the celebration's 234-year history, drew a connection between the two events.

No one, he said in a morning homily at St. Patrick's Cathedral, "can assure peace unless, while remembering the tragedy of the past, we put behind the hatred of the past."

The keening of Irish bagpipes and the booming rhythms of Roman Catholic school marching bands echoed off the tall buildings as the parade passed through midtown Manhattan.

Parade Chairman John Dunleavy estimated that 1.5 million spectators lined the route.

Seventeen-year-old April Peck skipped school in New Milford, Conn., to attend the parade and dyed her hair green. Her pal, Adam Mulvey, 16, wore a green kilt, saying: "I'm showing my Irish heritage."

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