In amongst the drama of the Garth Brooks Croke Park saga and the anger of the Right2Water movement, Sunday night’s Reeling in the Years brought us back to an important and difficult moment in Ireland’s recent queer history in the form of Pantigate.
Somewhat ironically, it was an RTÉ programme that rehashed the incident as RTÉ were at the centre of it in the first place. Although unsurprisingly, they did not show the clip that sparked it all off. On 11th January 2011, Rory O’Neill, who of course is also known as Panti, was asked by Brendan O’Connor during a conversation on homophobia to give examples of people who have an anti-gay attitude.
O’Neill duly responded with some examples from the Iona Institute and mentioned John Waters, the former Irish Times columnist who has recently been in the news for his joint failed court case with Gemma O’Doherty to overturn Covid-19 restrictions. RTÉ and O’Neill were threatened with litigation and the broadcaster made an €85,000 payout to those who had been named in the programme. They also apologised for the segment.
This then led to Panti’s Noble Call in the Abbey Theatre where her beautiful, funny and painful speech on the insidious impact of everyday homophobia struck a chord in Ireland and around the world. It kick started a conversation in Ireland on homophobia and the many forms it can take and fed into the burgeoning debate on Marriage Equality, which was gathering pace.
I'll always remember the first time i heard that Panti speech. A defining moment in our nation's history. #ReelingInTheYears
— Alan Keegan (@alanckeegan) May 9, 2021
Still watch Panti’s Check Myself speech to this day #reelingintheyears
— rory (@ucdsisweb) May 9, 2021
How lovely would it be if there was a special LGBTQ+ episode of #reelingintheyears for next months pride commemorating Irelands gay history. Reeling in the Queers. FAO RTÉ.
— Daithí (@heyadaithi) May 9, 2021
While much of the subjects touched on in Sunday’s episode such as the homelessness crisis and redress for the Mother and Baby Homes scandal have seen little progress in the following seven years, there have been improvements (although not enough) in the lives of Ireland’s LGBTQ+ community. And it has got us thinking in GCN about what moments of queer history over the last decade or so deserve a place on Reeling in the Years.
The last two decades have been a vital period of hard fought progress and large attitudinal change in the country. The Marriage Referendum campaign is sure to feature in next Sunday’s episode about 2015. But what else should be included? At GCN we have been doing our own version with the Reeling in the Queers series. We have covered from the ’70s up to the ’90s but what should we cover in the 2000s and 2010s? Let us know!
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