Gay rights activist Rory O’Neill, aka Panti Bliss, is heading Down Under to represent Ireland at one of the world’s biggest and most colourful celebrations of gay pride - the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
The Ballinrobe native will be the guest of honour on the Irish float, sponsored by TanOrganic, at the Mardi Gras parade on March 7.
Mr O’Neill said he was delighted to have been invited to take part in the Syndney parade, which looks set to be the biggest one to date with over one million people expected to take part.
“It has been an important start to the year for gay rights in Ireland,” said Mr O’Neill. “Health Minister Leo Varadkar’s recent public coming out has been big news, not necessarily because anyone thinks his sexuality is an issue but because it shows how Ireland is moving forward in leaps and bounds where equality and acceptance are concerned.
“Leo was very brave is his actions, for which I applaud him and I am proud to be representing my country at such a significant time, as well as celebrating gay and lesbian sexuality in Australia.”
Mr O’Neill, who was previously best known as Ireland’s foremost drag queen Panti Bliss, gained a much higher public profile as a gay rights campaigner when his impassioned ‘Noble Call’ from the stage of the Abbey Theatre last January, on the meaning of homophobia and its presence in Irish society, went viral on YouTube.