Rory O’Neill was among those honoured at this year’s People of the Year Awards. Celebrating its 40th anniversary, the annual ceremony was presented by Gráinne Seoige and broadcast live on RTÉ One television from Dublin’s Citywest Hotel last Saturday night. Rory was presented with his award by Stephen Fry.
Rory O’Neill won his award for his courage and defiance in fighting for freedom of expression and breaking down barriers to equality. Well known in the gay community for many years, Rory caught the nation’s attention following an RTÉ interview and an emotional address from the stage of the Abbey Theatre describing the reality of everyday life for some members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Ireland. Through his actions he helped trigger national and international debate on the notion of tolerance and equality for all members of society.
Rory’s alter ego Panti Bliss has now become a poster-girl for Ireland’s equality campaign. International supporters such as Stephen Fry, Graham Norton, Jonathan Ross, and Madonna have helped drive an important conversation, one that can hopefully lead to a change in attitudes and a change in how people treat LGBT people in Ireland, and worldwide.