Anna Nolan: Pixel reveals how far we still have to come to accept gay people
In Donal Óg Cusack's recent documentary, Coming Out of the Curve, the former hurler travelled to Russia and met with young gay men and women who lived quite a grim life.
They were in constant fear of being intimidated, verbally abused or beaten up.
But the most shocking part of the documentary was when Donal Óg spoke to the politician Vitaly Milinov. Milinov explained so-called 'anti-gay' laws in the country and told the hurling star that homophobia was a good thing.
The distance between Ireland and Russia gave me some sense of relief. I feel grateful that we here in Ireland experience nothing as degrading or frightening as what is going on in Russia.
But last week, something happened here that I felt had undertones of what goes on within the Soviet Union.
There was something tragic about a Newstalk competition that was run in the lead up to Valentine's Day.
Sean Moncrieff's radio show ran a competition - the prize was a wedding. So lots of couples applied, and Caoimhe and 'Pixel' won. They won by lip syncing the song, Everybody Needs Somebody To Love.
All good so far. But what is so tragic about this story is that 'Pixel' isn't the young woman's name (though I quite like it as a name!). The woman was so afraid that she would lose her job as a teacher in a Catholic school that she felt obliged to pixelate her face in the video.
Catholic schools are exempt from certain aspects of equality law due to their religious ethos and teachings.
Now I am not aware of anyone who has been sacked because of their sexuality in Ireland. But, regardless, it is appalling that teachers need to keep their sexuality a secret.
Teachers' sexuality is definitely an issue. Only last month a deputy principal won a case against a school on the grounds of age, religion and sexual orientation.
The hearing found that the teacher had been asked an unlawful question at interview: "What about the homos?" The Equality Tribunal ruled this question unlawful.
But for someone to work in an environment where you know that discrimination is acceptable because of an exemption from the law, is frightening.
Regardless of what colleagues, bosses and friends may say, if the law is not watertight, you are vulnerable.
There are hundreds of teachers who 'pixelate' their true identities, who hide their partners and are secretive about their families.
We may feel that, equality wise, Ireland is a world away from Russia. But we still have a very long way to go.
I'm not giving up cakes, chocolate or booze, so what should I drop for Lent?
"What are ya giving up for Lent"? Remember being asked that question in school?
You'd answer: "Sweets...cakes and biscuits...chocolate...fizzy drinks".
Others would give more creative answers: ketchup, watching TV, tea and sugar, getting the bus to school.
You'd have 40 days of abstinence and then on Easter Sunday, you'd eat/drink/consume yourself stupid.
I can vividly see the big glass jar into which I would put all the sweets and chocolate that came my way. I would take it out each evening and torture myself.
To be honest, I wasn't the best 'Lent kid' going. If I was feeling a little low, or even a little peckish, I would tip-toe upstairs and quietly open a bar.
This in itself was quite a feat - do you know how loud chocolate wrappers are when you're unwrapping them instead of saying your prayers?
Anyway, it's been years since I have fasted (with anything apart from alcohol). I wonder what would be the most challenging things I could give up for Lent as an adult in 2015?
Well, social media is one thing that I could do without for a while. In fact, my iPhone apps could all be deleted.
I could certainly give up television for a while. I spend a huge amount of time each evening with the box on and it would do me no harm to open a book or two.
Of course, there's the flip side of things. Instead of giving up, I could actually do something.
Exercise, go to the theatre, join a choir, take up a language.
Lent is probably the perfect time to make some changes in one's life.
But unfortunately I don't have any connection to this religious period, so I will just have to continue leading my very sinful existence...without any fasting!
He's no devil - Joe Schmidt's much smarter than that
I love Joe Schmidt. He is the antithesis of the other rugby coaches. You see these scary, angry, intimidating men in their glass cages during the matches and they would all give you the heebee jeebies. Then we have the calm, unassuming, but way more effective Schmidt. Just because he doesn't look like the Devil incarnate, doesn't mean he's not the best.
Good on Dublin DJ Annie Mac for getting her new slot on BBC Radio 1. The Dundrum woman has been plugging away for years and now she is taking over from Zane Lowe. She's such a talented DJ and really deserves this new role.
WWhat's everyone complaining about The Late Late Show for? I thought it was brilliant. The audience were boisterous, the Valentine's Day material was fun and the games were hilarious. The energy level of the whole studio was up a notch or two from the usual. So what's not to like?