'Person of the year' bliss for Panti
GAY rights activist and performer Rory O'Neill is in line to pick up a person of the year award next week, the Herald can reveal.
Mr O'Neill, who performs in drag as Panti Bliss, came to prominence earlier this year when his comments on homophobia resulted in RTE paying out an €85,000 legal settlement.
The station paid money to six people who claimed offence at Mr O'Neill's comments during an appearance on an RTE programme.
Mr O'Neill subsequently made a speech in the Abbey Theatre, about the oppression he felt being gay in Ireland, which was widely circulated and praised for its sincerity.
It is for his role as an "accidental activist" and for helping to raise awareness about discrimination against gay people, that he will be honoured at the People of the Year Awards.
Previous high-profile winners include Brendan O'Carroll, Katie Taylor, Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Brian O'Driscoll, Keith Duffy, Padraig Harrington, Christy Moore, Sir Terry Wogan, Bob Geldof and Niall Quinn.
The event originating in 1975, as "Ireland's answer to an honours system" and to provide a unique opportunity for the Irish public to celebrate the outstanding contributions made by individuals and organisations to life in Ireland by nominating them for an award.
The awards will be broadcast live on RTE One on Saturday, December 6.
Organisers have said that this year's event will have an "extra special feel to it," marking 40 years as Ireland's national awards ceremony.
All the winners were nominated by the Irish public and finalised by a panel of adjudicators.
Categories at the event include International Person of the Year, Young Person of the Year, Community Group of the Year, and Sports Person of the Year.
There are also additional awards presented for achievements in a range of other areas.
Launching this year's round of nominations, former winner and broadcaster Michael O' Muircheartaigh said that the awards reveal Ireland's courageous spirit.
"These awards are an incredible way of honouring those heroes in our local communities, people who are going out every day and making changes around the country," he said.
Mr O'Neill has previously spoken about how he was approached by two political parties about the possibility of running in European elections.
While he did not name either party, he said that he didn't want to pursue a career in politics.
"I'm not cut out to be a politician. I think I'm much better off as a provocateur, he said.