Eoghan Daly’s Irish eyes were smiling Friday on Fifth Avenue.
Caped in his country’s flag and clad in his emerald green Gaelic football shirt, the 24-year-old visitor from County Kerry in southwestern Ireland felt right at home marching in New York’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
“I can’t believe how many people support the Irish,” said Daly. “People ask me, ‘No way, you’re Irish?’”
Daly was one of an estimated 100,000 marchers and 2 million spectators who attend each year’s parade, which dates to 1762.
This year, the longtime route passed a sitting president’s home for the first time in New York history, and unprecedented security measures were in place outside President Donald Trump’s namesake tower.
At an earlier St. Patrick’s Day breakfast at Gracie Mansion, Mayor Bill de Blasio implicitly criticized Trump’s immigration policies without mentioning Trump’s name.
He referenced Trump’s executive orders to temporarily stop the entry of immigrants, refugees and visitors from several Muslim-majority countries deemed terror threats — orders that have been suspended by judges.
De Blasio, a Democrat, likened the plight of new refugees to that faced by Irish immigrants to America in the 19th and 20th centuries, when they encountered bigotry.
“They were treated like the wretched. And we have to remember that history,” de Blasio said in remarks to several hundred people. “We have to respect each and every new generation that joins us from all over the world.”
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo marched with Ireland Prime Minister Enda Kenny. At the breakfast, de Blasio praised Kenny, who during a meeting with Trump this week discussed the status of the estimated 50,000 Irish living illegally in the United States.
“He did a great service to America by making his comments — by reminding us all that those who come here, for whatever reason and in whatever status, look like the entire world, just like the great history of American immigration tells us,” de Blasio said. “They are human beings yearning to breathe free.”
De Blasio had boycotted the parade until last year, when gays marching under their own banner were permitted for the first time.
The family of Steven McDonald, the NYPD police officer paralyzed in a 1986 shooting who died in January, marched in his honor behind police bagpipers.
“This is probably my brother’s favorite day of the year, and he marched no matter what the weather,” said his sister Theresa Wadkins of Rockville Centre.
“We pushed him up Fifth Avenue, and the people of New York showed their love for him every year,” Wadkins said. “He’s not with us in his chair today but he is with us in spirit. All these people love him and remember him and will always remember him.”
Hugh Maxwell, a case manager for Catholic Charities, marched in his kilt patterned in the family Tartan, flasher garters holding up his white socks, a sporran pouch and a cable-knit cardigan sweater.
As the 58-year-old Staten Islander made his way up Fifth Avenue, he said, he thought back to the 19th century and “my relatives on a boat for a better life, escaping the famine.”
“It’s exhausting,” he said, his feet sore from the march. “I should have done this when I was 28, not 58. But I’ll do it next year and every year after.”