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St. Patrick's Parade draws revelers to Fifth Avenue

Thousands descend on the Manhattan street to celebrate the Irish and immigration - the theme of this year's parade.

Brian O’Dwyer, grand marshal of the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Manhattan, speaks Saturday. (Credit: Newsday / Matthew Chayes)

Thousands of revelers celebrating the Irish and immigration descended on the streets of Manhattan on Saturday morning for the world’s largest St. Patrick’s Day parade.

This year’s theme was immigration and led by Grand Marshal Brian O’Dwyer, an activist and immigration lawyer who founded the Emerald Isle Immigration Center in Woodside.

The immigration theme was bolstered this year by President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the southern border.

O’Dwyer marched up Fifth Avenue in the 257-year-old parade with five Latino immigrants whom he has represented. He said they all were legally in the country.

“In this climate, we were very much afraid of putting undocumented immigrants on the line,” O’Dwyer said.

O’Dwyer was joined by an NYPD delegation and the New York National Guard’s Fighting 69th Infantry, which joined the parade in 1851 as a militia for Irish immigrants in case of anti-immigrant violence.

Mayor Bill de Blasio marched in the parade with NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill. The parade was a late addition to the mayor’s schedule before he and the first lady leave for New Hampshire on Saturday afternoon.

Rep. Pete King (R-Seaford) also marched as the Port Authority PBA Emerald Society’s honorary Grand Marshal.

Outgoing Malverne Mayor Patti McDonald and her son, NYPD Sgt. Conor McDonald, marched in the parade under a banner for fallen NYPD Det. Steven McDonald.

Steven McDonald was shot and paralyzed during a robbery in 1986 but continued to participate in the parade every year with his son sitting on his lap.

“This was something he never thought he’d be able to do,” Patti McDonald said of her late husband. “I kind of feel his presence here.”

The O’Neill family from Larchmont said they watched the parade from the sidewalk as they did every year to cheer on the pipe bands and Irish Step dancers.

Their 10-year-old daughter Claire made her 10th consecutive parade to watch the Irish wolfhounds with her parents, James and Hope O’Neill.

“We are always here for the bag pipes,” Hope O’Neill said.

“It’s a cultural tradition,” James O’Neill said.

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