Gilmore drops visit to Savannah to avoid men only St Patrick’s Day dinner
Event is traditional stop for government ministers
Tanaiste Eamonn Gilmore avoided a men only dinner in Savannah, Georgia, by dropping the destination from his St Patrick’s Day itinerary. Photo: Photocall Ireland
Savannah, which has one of the biggest St Patrick’s Day celebrations in the southern United States, was not on the itinerary for his week-long trip, even though the Minister for Foreign Affairs visited nearby Atlanta.
A visit to Savannah would have required Mr Gilmore’s attending the anniversary dinner of the Hibernian Society of Savannah tonight.
This is an exclusively male event and one of the city’s main St Patrick’s Day events.
Savannah was excluded from Mr Gilmore’s itinerary for his US trip before any formal invitation was issued for the Hibernian Society dinner or before any arrangements regarding his attendance were put in place.
In Atlanta yesterday on his second day in Georgia, the Tánaiste said he understood that his attendance at the dinner was to be a major part of a trip to Savannah so he had decided not to visit the city.
Mr Gilmore will instead visit New Orleans today for St Patrick’s Day events before travelling on to Washington DC.
Mr Gilmore said he would decline to attend any men-only event as part of any foreign travel programme.
“Not doing it”
“Count me out – I’m not doing it,” the Tánaiste said. “I don’t believe in segregation either on a gender basis or on any other basis.”
Traditionally one of the stops for ministers visiting Georgia over recent years, Savannah has one of the biggest Irish populations in the American southeast.
Savannah holds the second- largest St Patrick’s Day parade in the United States, with in excess of 500,000 people attending the event every year.
“It is not a case of me not wanting to go to Savannah but there is no point in bringing me to Savannah if one of the major parts of the programme is going to be a men-only event,” he added.
The Hibernian Society’s president, William Bruggeman, said: “We are not aware of any politician, Irish or US, that has ever declined an invitation to attend our anniversary dinner held [on] St Patrick’s Day evening due to disagreement with any of our traditions.”
Government ministers have been regular visitors to Savannah for St Patrick’s Day.
Fianna Fáil ministers John O’Donoghue and Noel Dempsey travelled to the city in 2009 and 2010.