Stunt or significant gesture? Taoiseach’s visit to Pantibar

Enda Kenny’s visit to Dublin gay bar causes a stir online

Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs James Reilly, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Brian Sheehan, Director of Gay and Lesbian Equality Network visited Dublin’s gay Pantibar on Tuesday night.

Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs James Reilly, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Brian Sheehan, Director of Gay and Lesbian Equality Network visited Dublin’s gay Pantibar on Tuesday night.

 

“So there’s An Taoiseach in Pantibar,” a post on the Dublin gay bar’s Facebook page reads over a picture of Enda Kenny who visited the bar last night. “It’s a changed world in many ways”.

This was the reaction to the visit by Rory O’Neill, the entertainer and gay rights activist also known as Panti Bliss, who owns the bar where the Taoiseach met with members of the Fine Gael LGBTgroup during a pre-Christmas get-together.

A tweet by Irish Times columnist Una Mullally summed up one Pantibar-goer’s reaction: “Bless,” he said when it was pointed out to him that one of the “suits” in the establishment was in fact the leader of the country.

However the online reaction to a photo posted on the bar’s Facebook page showing the Taoiseach pictured with TD Jerry Buttimer, Brian Sheehan of GLEN and the Minister for Children James Reilly was decidedly less subdued and included no small amount of cynicism.

“He’s obviously trying to win the pink vote,” one post read.

“Please don’t give these people the free, positive publicity they so obviously want,” another said.

“This guy is using you for cheap publicity and it may well backfire on you because the guy is toxic,” a further post said.

Indeed such was the reaction that Panti Bliss later updated her original post in response to those “having a conniption” about the Taoiseach’s visit.

“Calm down. We didn’t know he was coming. He came to meet the Fine Gael LGBT group who were having a Christmas get-together drink in the bar. It’s a public bar. Anyone can drink here. Why’d I post the picture? Because the Taoiseach in a gay bar is a first. It’s significant because only a few years ago a Taoiseach wouldn’t have dared, so it shows how times have changed,” the post read.

Others supported this view: “You don’t have to be a fan of (Fine Gael) to see how significant this is. Things can only change if we’re ALL open to change,” said one post.

“The amount of negativity on this photo is actually sickening,” said another. “The prime minister of what was – until relatively recently – a traditionalist and conservative Catholic country is in a gay bar. Publicity stunt or not . . . that’s an absolutely brilliant step forward. I’m not often impressed with Enda Kenny but this is a great sign in how far our little country has come.”

A number of posts related to the forthcoming referendum on same-sex marriage, which is due to be held next year.

“Enda wants to score some kudos from the public opinion before the equality referendum, fair enough, a sly maneuver (sic) but a meaningful gesture too,” one poster concluded.