Friday 30 September 2016

Ireland's gay diaspora

Published 20/04/2015 | 02:30

Boy George
Boy George
Christine Quinn
Paul O Grady
Kathy Griffin
Rosie O'Donnell
Christine Quinn

From racism in America to the St Patrick's Day parade controversy, the Irish disapora has never been renowned for its tolerance. But over the years it has also thrown up some of the brightest stars in the gay firmament. Donal Lynch takes the measure of some of the the headliners

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Christine Quinn

At the heart of America's ultimate melting pot is a woman who is Irish on all sides. Quinn is a Democratic Party politician in New York, former speaker of New York City council and mayoral candidate. All four of her grandparents were born in Ireland - three in Co Cork and one in Co Clare. She was the first female and first openly gay speaker in New York City Council. Three years ago, she was named New York's most powerful gay person by Out Magazine. Quinn made a decision to boycott New York's St Patrick Day parade "due to its history of discrimination" against gay marchers and instead opted to march in the Queens parade, and she even marched in Dublin's parade in 2007.

Boy George

Undoubtedly the most iconic icon on our list. He emerged from the London club scene like some bastard child of David Bowie and Marc Bolan, and over the years turned up in a variety of guises, from pigtailed rag doll to overweight street sweeper. Now in his 50s, George seems to have finally found a bit of peace in life and though his newer records are a bit dodgy and the Culture Club reunion was an unadulterated car-crash, we're still mad about the Boy. George's mother, Dinah, came from Dublin and his father Gerry came from a large London-Irish family.

Kathy Griffin

Kathy's Irish heritage is slightly distant, but she does have red hair and an alcoholic mother, so that's good enough for us. We'll never forget the episode of her reality show that she filmed in The George bar in Dublin. "Let's ger mad ouruvvit, Kathy" a young gay reveller told her. "Mad elephant?" she responded in confusion. "What the fuck is a mad elephant?" This slight misunderstanding aside, the Chicago-born comic legend has always shown that she 'gets' her gays and they get her right back. She's friends with Cher and Suze Orman and does a 'gay gasp' better than any gay man.

Paul O'Grady

O'Grady presented a blueprint for drag queens worldwide: how to retire your drag persona without causing a revolt among your fan base. Still, we mourn the demise of Lily Savage, but O'Grady's career continues to flourish, and a few years ago he was awarded an MBE.

Rosie O'Donnell

Kathy Griffin says that if you want to get something done, you ask a power lesbian. They don't come much more powerful than Rosie O'Donnell, the so-called Queen Of Nice who, after Oprah Winfrey, was probably the pre-eminent TV talk-show host of the 1990s in America. O'Donnell's great-grandfather and his family came from Rathmore, Co Kildare, but they had lived in a Naas workhouse for at least a year, among the poorest of the poor, during the Great Famine in Ireland.

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