'Our industry is utterly disposable': Rory O'Neill shares his frustrations at Government's handling of pandemic

As many of Ireland's cultural institutions including Panti Bar have remained shut for almost a year due to the pandemic, Rory O'Neill spoke about the impact on the industry and its patrons.

Rory O'Neill on the Six O'Clock Show

Ireland’s arts and entertainment industry has remained closed for almost one year since the start of the pandemic. Rory O’Neill aka Panti Bliss appeared on the Six O’Clock Show to share the impact of the pandemic restrictions on his livelihood.

He said: “I’ll be brutally honest with you, I’m struggling at this stage.

“The first lockdown, I had all the wartime spirit and I thought, ‘Oh I’m going to make use of the time’ and I learnt editing software and did things.

“But it’s been a year now and I’m just banging my head off the wall because there’s no real end in sight for us.

“I read this thing that I just can’t get out of my head that 70 per cent of the population have saved money during the pandemic for not going on holidays and stuff.

“I live in a parallel universe because everybody I know who works in the entertainment industry or the bars or whatever, we’ve all lost everything.

“So I spend all my days arguing with the bank arguing over mortgage payments.

“Everything just ended. It turns out that our industry is utterly disposable.

“I think the experience of the pandemic has been very different for different sections of the population.”

Speaking to hosts Muireann O’Connell and Martin King, Rory O’Neill spoke of his frustration at the Government’s handling of the pandemic:

“I don’t want to get into the politics of it but I just want to scream at the television.

“I want them to stop leaking from their meetings and throwing up balloons about what might be [happening].

“I want you [the Taoiseach] to stand in front of the thing, tell us exactly what you know and nothing more.

“Because all this stuff like, ‘Oh there might be restrictions, some kind of restrictions going on for a year’, they’ve casually said stuff like that.

“‘Oh it might be going on for another year or more’.

“Don’t say that unless you absolutely know that because that’s the kind of thing that’ll keep me and people like me awake for the rest of the night.”

Panti Bliss calls on Irish state to combat hate crime following homophobic attack in Dublin
Panti and Penny

While Rory expressed his worry for his business during the pandemic he also spoke of the impact it is having on his customers, many of whom depend on places like Panti Bar and Pennylane for their social life.

Rory said: “What I often say to people is, even though Panti Bar is in the middle of the city centre, it’s like a local pub in a village.

“I’m going to the same gay bar as I was when I first came out. I went to the George then and I would still go the George occasionally for a pint now.

“Whole generations go to the same bar and continue to.

“It’s where you go to meet all your friends, where you meet the people of your own community.

“I won’t name him but one of our customers, he retired during the pandemic so he’s 65.

“He would leave work every day and come into Panti Bar and spend the evening there, sitting at the bar on exactly the same stool every single day, quietly and slowly having maybe three pints over the course of the evening, doing the Irish Times crossword.

“Other regular customers who had known him for years from this sort of thing, one would wander in and sit up with him for a chat, then go off and somebody else would sit.

“He lives alone and it’s his entire social interaction in life and for the last year, he hasn’t seen anybody.

“It does [play my mind].”

Buzz O’Neill is running a weekly series on Clubhouse titled ‘The Irish Hospitality Industry: Surviving in a Pandemic’. Each week he will be joined by members of the Irish Hospitality industry to discuss, have we survived? How we survived? What’s the future? And can we survive? More details can be found here.

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