Feb. 18, 2016 By Christian Murray
New York City school children who live in Irish communities would be granted a day off school to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day if a Queens State Senator’s bill becomes law.
State Sen. Tony Avella, who represents Northeast Queens, introduced a bill Tuesday that would establish Saint Patrick’s Day as a school holiday in districts with a significant Irish population.
Avella, in a statement, said he was prompted to take action after learning that the New York City parent-teacher conferences would be held on the Irish Saint’s holiday, as it was in 2011 when the 250th annual parade took place. Many teachers were infuriated that they would have to work late during their cultural holiday.
Avella argues that Saint Patrick’s Day should be established as a school holiday, just as many other cultural and religious holidays are, and noted that the Irish community is long overdue for this recognition.
Using the language of the Lunar New Year school holiday bill that unanimously passed the State Senate, Avella introduced his bill that would establish Saint Patrick’s Day as a school holiday in City School Districts of one million or more, with an Irish population of 7.5% or greater.
The bill, which was introduced just two days ago, has yet to get any co-sponsors in the senate and a similar bill has not been introduced into the Assembly.
New York State, according to Avella, has the largest concentrated Irish population in the United States, 12.9%, and New York City itself was the first to host a Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in 1762, which continues to be one of the most widely attended traditions in the city.
“It is really quite astounding that Saint Patrick’s Day is yet to be recognized as a school holiday in New York, where so many Irish immigrants originally settled and where so many of their descendants still live,” Avella said. “Let us extend the same courtesy to the Irish as we have to so many other cultural and religious groups and let students and teachers alike observe this holiday with their friends and family. It isn’t just time we do this, it is time past due.”
Avella’s bill has the support of some Irish leaders.
“All immigrants in the City and State of New York are entitled to honor their heritage. Recognizing March 17th and the significance to millions of New Yorkers in celebrating the Feast Day of Patrick the Patron Saint…will ensure that generations of students will acknowledge the cultural, spiritual, civic and educational contributions of the Irish to New York,” said Siobhan Dennehy, the executive director of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center.