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Monday, March 17, 2014

Murdoch Urges Irish to Boycott Guinness Over Its Embrace of Gay Rights

Responding to the news that Guinness had withdrawn its sponsorship of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York over the continued exclusion of gay groups from the festivities, Rupert Murdoch called on the people of Ireland and their cousins in the diaspora to retaliate by boycotting the beer.

The media tycoon’s rousing Twitter plea to defend what he described as “a religious parade” â€" but is more often understood to be a celebration of national identity, and frequently marked by displays of public drunkenness â€" has so far appeared to have inspired little or no support on the social network, but quite a lot of heckling.

Given that the Irish invented the boycott tactic in the 19th century, to deal with a particularly onerous Englishman named Captain Boycott, Mr. Murdoch might have expected a more favorable response to his suggestion.

But perhaps he failed to reckon with the fact that, as the gay Irish Senator David Norris explained to The Christian Science Monitor this week, gay groups have been welcome to march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin for decades. “I find it extraordinary that Irish-Americans can be so far behind the actual inhabitants of the island of Ireland,” Mr. Norris said, adding that several years ago “the gay float won first prize in our national St. Patrick’s Day Parade.”

Although the issue may still divide Irish-Americans, the acceptance of gay rights is now so mainstream in Ireland that the state broadcaster, RTE, recently broadcast a comedy sketch that mocked the concept embraced by Mr. Murdoch, that it is lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists who are the bullies. The faux news report, which contains some strong language, recounted the struggles of “an activist against antihomophobia” in Dublin trying to make the Irish public aware of “the damage caused by bullying homophobes.”

As my colleague Maureen Dowd reported, a recent edition of the parade in the Dublin even featured the activist drag queen Panti Bliss, whose real name is Rory O’Neill, on top of a float belting out Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out for a Hero.”

Ms. Bliss, who visited New York to take part in an alternative St. Patrick’s Day “parade for all” in Queens, suggested that the iconic beer manufacturer’s withdrawal from sponsorship of the Manhattan parade, along with other companies, was a sign of the times.

Follow Robert Mackey on Twitter @robertmackey.