Gays kept out of NY Irish parade

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'MY, OH MY, if I'd known all these policemen were going to be here I would have put on some eyeliner,' joked Chad, a 23-year-old gay black student, moments before he and more than a hundred homosexuals were arrested in the rain on Fifth Avenue for defying a ban on their participation in yesterday's St Patrick's Day parade.

It was a dreary start to a dismal day in the long history of the event, when a million people usually watch one of America's largest parades. For the third year running the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization had been excluded from the parade by its sponsors, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, a Catholic fraternal organisation. A judge ruled that the Hibernians could run the parade how they liked, and he banned the gays from interrupting it.

The gays went ahead anyway, sitting down in the parade's route. As police handcuffed them, the gays' supporters shouted: 'Shame, shame' and 'Hey, hey, ho, ho, homophobia has got to go.'

A onlooker named Joe, who said he was neither Irish nor gay, said he was outraged: 'Look what's happening to them; it's just like the civil rights marches of the Fifties.' Banners said: 'Feeling Green: Bigotry Makes US Sick', 'Fight The Right-wing Bigots,' and 'Brits Out of Ireland, Bigots Out Of The Parade'.

Other onlookers told the gays to go home. 'God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,' shouted one young man adorned with clover. An army sergeant, James Moran, who was part of the National Guard contingent, said it was a pity the unit was no longer issued with bayonets. 'We would would have dealt with the protesters slightly differently,' he said, with only a hint that he was joking.