The 191st St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Savannah, Georgia will take place on the day itself: Tuesday, March 17th and will begin promptly at 10:15am.
We, the people of Ireland, from the adopted homeland of the venerated St. Patrick, will be sending Wexford native, Paul Kehoe, TD, Government Chief Whip and Minister of State at the Departments of An Taoiseach and Defence to attend.
This parade, more correctly, the post parade dinner hosted by the Hibernian Society of Savannah, has made news in political circles in Ireland several times over the past few years.
This was brought to my attention recently by a Castleisland man living in the area at present.
The Hibernian Society of Savannah is a ‘men only’ set up and does not allow women to sit and peel the spuds with them at this particular dinner – and there’s the nub of the issue.
They are simply not into all this gender balance craic at all. The only comparison we have here would be the membership book of our very own Irish Countrywomen’s Association.
In 2013, the then Tánaiste,Eamon Gilmore refused to visit Savannah because of the men only rule.
“Instead he stopped off in Atlanta and New Orleans — where St. Patrick’s Day crowds and parades pale in comparison to the nearly 200-year-old celebration in Savannah, which boasts that its parade is the nation’s second-largest. It is not a case of me not wanting to go to Savannah. But there is no point in bringing me to Savannah if one of the major parts of the program is going to be a men-only event,” Mr. Gilmore said at that time – according to USA Today.
Early Irish immigrants to the Georgia coast held the first St. Patrick’s Day parade in Savannah in 1824, and it has since swelled into a massive street party and tourism bonanza known to draw 400,000 or more revellers a year to the city of 136,000.
It’s just that it all seems to fly in the face of the obligations taken on by political parties here in Ireland to strike a gender balance in preparation for the 2016 general election and beyond.
There is a glaring gender balance omission in the opening line of the speech made by the then Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Leo Varadkar to the Hibernian Society on St. Patrick’s Day last year.
However, there’s a stroke of wicked irony in the feminine references to both countries in the toast:
“Consul General, distinguished guests, gentlemen. Throughout the nineteenth century there was one toast that the Hibernian Society here in Savannah would make every year on St Patrick’s Day: ‘To America as she is, and to Ireland as she ought to be – free and independent’.
It’s a toast I particularly like, because it offers both a compliment and a challenge. For years it symbolised the strong support which Americans in general, and Irish-Americans in particular, gave to Ireland during her long struggle for independence,” – Minister Varadkar.