Panti, Madge is on your side
QUEEN of pop Madonna has told the Sunday Independent she fully backs the gay rights activist Rory O'Neill, aka Miss Panti Bliss.
She is the latest celebrity to intervene in the Irish homophobia debate following the drag queen's impassioned 'Noble Call' at the Abbey Theatre, a 10-minute speech, which has now been watched by more than 300,000 people online.
Madonna's publicist, Liz Rosenberg, who also represents fashion designer John Galliano, said: "Madonna knows him (Rory O'Neill) and supports what he is doing."
Other international comedians and personalities such as Stephen Fry, Graham Norton and Dara O'Briain have also added their voices in support of Mr O'Neill.
Graham Norton, the TV chat show star with four million viewers a week, tweeted a link to Panti's 'Noble Call' at the Abbey, describing it as "brilliant".
Writer and comic Stephen Fry also got in on the online debate, telling Panti: "You're remarkable. You're a wonder", on Twitter to his 6.5 million followers. Dara O'Briain told his 1.6 million fans on Twitter that Mr O'Neill had the most "eloquent take" on the homophobia debate in Ireland, and the speech received media attention on the other side of the Atlantic with the Huffington Post picking up on it and CBC Canada.
Closer to home, Amnesty International's Colm O'Gorman is taking part in the robust online debate that is gaining momentum and, except for a few "internet trolls", he's witnessed lots of "considered discussions".
"I've had so many incredible messages on social media. One guy told me about his 83-year-old father sobbing as he watched Rory's speech because he was so moved by it. I had goose-bumps I was so moved by the tremendous importance of what he was saying, by his searingly honest examination of his own prejudices and his demand that we all take a look at ourselves," Mr O'Gorman said.
However, he is very surprised about the direction the debate around homophobia has taken.
"I certainly didn't expect we'd be in a position at this stage where we'd be arguing whether homophobia exists or not; that's frankly bizarre. For heaven's sake there's now mandatory anti-homophobic bullying programmes in our schools, and some people want to argue that it's an extreme word, a rare phenomenon."