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(LifeSiteNews) — A large crowd of pro-life activists gathered peacefully Saturday on both sides of Fifth Avenue, as marching units in the New York City Saint Patrick’s Day Parade moved up the avenue past Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.

The assembly was called to bring renewed attention to the abortion crisis – a humanitarian disaster that spans the globe from Ireland to New York to small town America, organizers said.

Activists, many holding signs, came out in the largest numbers since the right-to-life movement first initiated its annual presence along the line of march.

That presence is the consequence of the shocking decision by parade organizers to exclude pro-life groups, marching under their own banners, from a Catholic-themed parade in honor of the Apostle of Ireland.

New York’s Saint Patrick’s Day Parade – which dates to 1762 – is the world’s oldest and largest celebration of Ireland’s Patron Saint.

Reviewed by the Archbishop of New York from the steps of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, the parade is a colorful spectacle of green dresses and wide smiles, parochial school troupes, marching bands, police officers and firefighters, military units, Irish County Associations, and visiting lawmakers from Ireland, who march up the city’s historic thoroughfare to the loud and distinctive skirl of bagpipes.

Missing from all of this Catholic ostentation however, are those who support what the religion of Saint Patrick teaches about the sanctity of innocent human life.

John Aidan Byrne, founder and president of Irish Pro-Life USA, and leader of the March 16 protest, made the following statement: “It is sad it has come to this, protesting on the sidewalks of a parade so rich in Irish and Catholic history. Once again, we are shocked and bewildered as to why parade organizers do not allow a pro-life group, with its banner, to march in this parade honoring the Patron Saint of Ireland and of the Archdiocese of New York.”

“We urge the parade leaders to end their appeasement of politicians, special interests, and secular culture, and admit to the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade those who adhere to the moral beliefs of Saint Patrick,” added Byrne, a local area resident, dual U.S. and Irish citizen, and a native of County Louth, Ireland.

The rally was supported by many pro-life organizations.

“New York State urgently needs to restore a culture of life. Radical pro-abortion laws are not the answer. We must defend the inalienable right to life from the moment of conception until death,” New York State Right to Life said in a statement. “We applaud the pro-life rally on the sidewalks of the New York City Saint Patrick’s Day Parade today.”

Dawn C. Eskew, president and founder of Personhood Education NY, Inc., said the pro-life message should not be sidelined by the New York City Saint Patrick’s Day Parade.

“A pro-life group carrying its own banner should be permitted to march in the parade as a matter of priority as we continue the campaign to restore a culture of life in our city and state,” she added.

Officials at Students for Life of America said pro-life efforts nationwide continue to be under assault.

“Students for Life of America (SFLA) is no stranger to this fight. We support the restoration of a pro-life culture,” the group said in a statement.

“Visibly displaying a life-affirming message is a part of that, and Irish Pro-Life USA and other pro-life groups like SFLA should be afforded the same signage and marching opportunities.”

A prominent pro-life group in Ireland was heartened by the rally in Midtown Manhattan.

“We congratulate the organizers and everyone who peacefully protested on the sidewalks of the 2024 New York City Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in support of a pro-life values in New York, Ireland and across the globe,” said Life Institute, a pro-life and pro-family group based in Dublin, Ireland.

“We hope the Irish government is paying attention. Friends of Ireland and the Irish diaspora in America are sending a clear message in defense of the most vulnerable in our society. Well done.”

Indeed, among the variety of pro-life signs held aloft by activists were some with grim words for Eire: “Ireland’s 10,000 abortions in 2023. Why are we aborting our future?”

At least 10,000 children were aborted in Ireland in 2023, according to figures released earlier this year by Ireland’s Health Service Executive.

A second sign read, “Ireland Says No, No,” a reference to the recent crushing defeat for proposed changes by the Irish government on decades-old wording in two sections of the Irish Constitution on family and women in the home. Irish voters voted “no” twice.

At the rally in Midtown Manhattan, the assembled pro-lifers drove their message home.

“We are heartened by the large show of support here today for the inclusion of a pro-life group with its own banner in the New York City Saint Patrick’s Day Parade,” said Thomas M. Upshur, President of the Pro Bikers For Life, a U.S. nationwide pro-life association of motorcyclists.

Added Upshur: “Today’s message will ring out across the world, including Ireland, as we urge support for a pro-life and pro-family culture.”

Finally, C. J. Doyle, Executive Director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, issued the following message of support:

John Byrne, of Irish Pro-Life USA, is to be congratulated for his splendid effort to bring a substantial pro-life witness to a parade which ought to embrace and defend Catholic values, but, sadly, has chosen human respect over Catholic truth.

In one of his two extant writings, A Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus, our Patron, Saint Patrick, condemns, in harsh language and unequivocal terms, the willful murder of the innocent, describing those who shed innocent blood as “savage wolves,” “sons of the Devil” and “fellow citizens of the demons.

Anyone who claims to honor Saint Patrick while refusing to defend innocent life is a hypocrite unworthy of his heritage and unfaithful to the religion of his baptism. The disciples of Saint Patrick are those who, like their Apostle, defend the defenseless.

Today in Manhattan, the true sons of Saint Patrick were on the sidewalks of New York.