Rory O'Neill, (born 16 November 1968), also known by his stage name as Panti or Panti Bliss and Pandora Panti Bliss[1] is a drag queen and gay rights activist from Ballinrobe, County Mayo, Ireland.[2][3][4]

Panti in 2013
Rory O'Neill

(1968-11-16) 16 November 1968 (age 51)
OccupationDrag queen

Early lifeEdit

O'Neill, the son of a veterinary surgeon, grew up in Ballinrobe, County Mayo, and went to art college in Dún Laoghaire.[5] Although raised a Roman Catholic, O'Neill is an atheist.[6] O'Neill talked to Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin about having been diagnosed as HIV-positive in 1995 on the RTÉ Radio 1 series Aoibhinn and Company.[7]


Panti is considered to be Ireland's foremost drag queen.[5][8] From 1996 to 2012, Panti was the hostess of the annual Alternative Miss Ireland pageant.[9]

Panti regularly hosts the annual Dublin Pride celebrations, which take place in the month of June every year.[10]

For a number of years Panti hosted a weekly karaoke show, The Casting Couch, at The Front Lounge pub, Dublin. Panti occasionally appears at Shirley Temple Bar's weekly drag queen Bingo show in the Dublin gay bar, The George.

On 30 November 2007, he opened the self-titled 'Pantibar' in Dublin.[4]

'Panti' is short for 'Pandora Panti Bliss'.[5] Rory O'Neill's first drag performance was in 1998.[11] Panti danced on stage in Japan with Cyndi Lauper during her 1994 Twelve Deadly Cyns Tour.[5] O'Neill and his alter ego Panti are the subject of a documentary about his early life, the events surrounding comments O'Neill made about homophobia and Panti's role during Ireland’s successful campaign for Marriage Equality. Filmed over a number of years, the documentary was directed by Conor Horgan.[12] The Queen of Ireland premiered on 21 October 2015, followed by its planned nationwide release in Ireland from 23 October 2015.[13]

Comments about homophobia on RTÉ (a.k.a. "Pantigate")Edit

On 11 January 2014, O'Neill appeared on RTÉ's The Saturday Night Show with Brendan O'Connor where they discussed homophobia and O'Neill alleged that some individuals involved in Irish journalism were homophobic. This became known as "Pantigate".[14][15]

Those mentioned threatened RTÉ and O'Neill with legal action.[8] RTÉ subsequently removed that section of the interview from their online archive.[16] On 25 January episode of the Saturday Night Show, O'Connor issued a public apology on behalf of RTÉ to those mentioned by O'Neill in the interview held two weeks previously.[17] RTÉ paid €85,000 to those named by O'Neill.[18]

The payouts were later discussed by members of Oireachtas.[19][20] The incident was also discussed in the European Parliament.[21] with Irish MEP Paul Murphy, calling the payout "a real attack on the freedom of speech" and stating “When John Waters says that gay marriage is ‘a kind of satire’, that is homophobia. When Breda O’Brien says ‘equality must take second place to the common good’, that is homophobia. When the Iona Institute campaign against gay marriage because it is gay marriage, that is homophobia."[2][22][23][24] RTÉ's head of television defended the €85,000 payout stating that it saved RTÉ "an absolute multiple" in the long term.[25]

On 1 February 2014, O'Neill (as Panti) gave a Noble Call speech at the Abbey Theatre in response to the events surrounding the RTÉ controversy,[26][27] which garnered over 200,000 views in two days.[28] As of December 2018 the video has nearly 1 million views.[29] The speech was described as "the most eloquent Irish speech" in almost 200 years by Fintan O'Toole[30] and garnered the support of Dan Savage[30][31] RuPaul,[32] Graham Norton, Stephen Fry, Madonna, and others.[33] T-shirts with "I'm on Team Panti" have been sold as a fundraiser for BeLonG To Youth Services,[34] raising over €10,000.[32] In March 2014, English electronic pop duo Pet Shop Boys released the speech, backed with their music, as "Oppressive (The Best Gay Possible)," they followed up with a "slow mix" of the track, and accompanying video with a "montage of homophobia-related clips."[35]


  • 2005 Spurt! Sister! Spurt! as Madame[36]
  • 2007 In These Shoes?, Written and performed by Panti, at the Dublin Gay Theatre Festival[37]
  • 2007 All Dolled Up, Written and performed by Panti[38]
  • 2009 A Woman In Progress, Written and performed by Panti[39][40]
  • 2014 High Heels in Low Places, Written and performed by Panti.[41]





  • 2011 Ireland's Karaoke Klassics, 2FM, Co-presenter as Panti with Arveene
  • 2014 Sunday Breakfast With Dee Reddy, Phantom FM as guest contributor[43]
  • 2016 Pantisocracy a RTÉ Radio 1 four part interview series hosted by Panti[44]


  • 2014 "Oppression" by Out!rage Featuring Panti Bliss released in aid of BeLonG To
  • 2014 "The Best Gay Possible - Oppressive Dance Mix" by Pet Shop Boys incorporates Panti's speech at the Abbey Theatre[32]


  • Woman in the Making: A memoir, Rory O'Neill, 2014, Hachette Books Ireland.[45]


  • Winner of 'Business Person of the Year' – Gay and Lesbian Awards 2009[46]
  • Winner of 'Best Blog Post' – Irish Blog Awards 2010[47]
  • Attitude's Editor's Special Award - Attitude Magagzine Awards 2014[48]
  • Award for contribution to Irish society - People of the Year Awards 2014[49]
  • James Joyce Award - Presented by Literary and Historical society of University College Dublin[50]
  • Trinity College Dublin, Honorary Degree - O'Neill was awarded honorary degree from Trinity College Dublin for his contribution to LGBT rights and marriage equality[51]


  1. ^ Gorman, Sophie. "The high queen of Ireland: Rory O'Neill aka Panti Bliss". Irish Independent. INM. Archived from the original on 2014-12-01. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  2. ^ a b Byrne, Brian (4 February 2014). "Comic Norton shows support for Panti in RTE payout row". The Irish Independent. Archived from the original on 4 February 2014. Retrieved 6 April 2017.
  3. ^ "Welcome to the Gaybourhood". The Dubliner. 19 November 2007. Archived from the original on 18 March 2009. Retrieved 5 September 2010.
  4. ^ a b Barry Egan (6 September 2009). "Glamour queen is not amused". Irish Independent. Archived from the original on 4 August 2012. Retrieved 5 September 2010.
  5. ^ a b c d Una Mullally (15 July 2013). "Panti Unstitched". The Irish Times. Retrieved 26 January 2014.
  6. ^ "Watch The Meaning of Life with Gay Byrne on RTÉ Player".
  7. ^ "Aoibhinn and Company Wednesday 8 January 2014 - Aoibhinn and Company - RTÉ Radio 1". Aoibhinn and Company.
  8. ^ a b Cahir O'Doherty (19 January 2014). "Columnist John Waters in a Panti twist over anti-gay claims". Retrieved 1 February 2014.
  9. ^ "'Gay Christmas' is cancelled. So long, Alternative Miss Ireland". The Irish Times. 15 October 2011. Archived from the original on 15 October 2011.
  10. ^ "Dublin Pride: Ireland's Biggest LGBTQ Pride Parade". Dublin LGBTQ Pride:. Retrieved 2016-12-01.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  11. ^ Rory O'Neill (22 April 2019). "My first ever drag performance, 1989".
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Queen of Ireland premiere goes nationwide". 2 October 2015.
  14. ^ Horan, Niahm (23 February 2014). "'Pantigate' row rumbles on as journalist takes extended leave". Irish Independent. Archived from the original on 23 February 2014.
  15. ^ Chrissy Curtin (1 December 2014). "Pantigate: An Illustrated Timeline".
  16. ^ Brian Byrne (16 January 2014). "RTE cuts part of show after legal complaint from Waters". Irish Independent. Retrieved 1 February 2014.
  17. ^ "RTÉ apologises for 'distress' caused by Saturday Night Show guest's comments". 26 January 2014.
  18. ^ "RTÉ paid out €85,000 in 'homophobe' row". Irish Independent. 2 February 2014.
  19. ^ Murphy, Catherine (20 January 2014). "Column: Panti Bliss controversy raises major questions about RTE's role in public discourse".
  20. ^ Clare Daly (20 January 2014). "RTE's Censorship and Double Standards Condones Prejudice".
  21. ^ "Sitting of 2014-02-03". European Parliament.
  22. ^ Suzanne Lynch (5 February 2014). "MEPs call on EU to implement road map to combat homophobia - Social Affairs & News from Ireland & Abroad". The Irish Times. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  23. ^ "David Norris and Paul Murphy raise homophobia in Irish and EU parliaments". 4 February 2014.
  24. ^ Brydum, Sunnivie (5 February 2014). "WATCH: Irish Lawmakers Call Out 'Rampant Homophobia'". The Advocate.
  25. ^ "Taoiseach dismisses call to make RTÉ answerable to the Dáil". The Irish Times. 5 February 2014.
  26. ^ Ramsey, Nick (2 February 2014). "Irish drag queen gives impassioned speech on gay rights". MSNBC. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
  27. ^ Nichols, James (3 February 2014). "Panti Bliss, Irish Drag Queen, Gives Impassioned Speech About Homophobia". Huffington Post. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
  28. ^ Buckley, Dan (February 6, 2014). "Maybe we are not as tolerant as we think". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  29. ^ "Panti's Noble Call at the Abbey Theatre - WITH SUBTITLES". 2 February 2014. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
  30. ^ a b Peter McGuire (11 Feb 2014). "What Makes a Homophobe? Ireland's Debate Goes Global". Huffington Post. Retrieved 9 March 2014.
  31. ^ Savage, Dan. "Stupid Irish Homophobes and Their Big Homophobic Fail". The Stranger. Retrieved 9 March 2014.
  32. ^ a b c Clare Cullen (17 February 2014). "'Team Panti' tshirts sales raise €10,000 for LGBT youth services -". Irish Independent. Archived from the original on 10 March 2014. Retrieved 9 March 2014.
  33. ^ Fegan, Joyce (February 10, 2014). "Panti, Madge is on your side". Irish Independent. Archived from the original on March 10, 2014. Retrieved 9 March 2014.
  34. ^ Brian O'Reilly (12 February 2014). "'Team Panti' supporters infiltrate Prime Time audience". Irish Independent. Archived from the original on 10 March 2014. Retrieved 9 March 2014.
  35. ^ "Pet Shop Boys Release 'Slow Mix' and Video of Panti Bliss Dance Track". Towleroad. 14 March 2014.
  36. ^ "Irish Theatre Magazine" retrieved 6 March 2009[dead link]
  37. ^ "Dublin Gay Theatre Festival 2006 - May 7th to 20th 2007". Dublin Gay Theatre Festival. Archived from the original on 12 May 2007. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
  38. ^ "Irish Theatre Magazine" Retrieved 17 October 2007 Archived 2007-10-31 at the Wayback Machine
  39. ^ "Irish Theatre Magazine" Retrieved 27 September 2009 Archived 2009-10-09 at the Wayback Machine
  40. ^ 'A Woman in Progress' in Fintan Walsh, ed., Queer Notions: New Plays and Performances from Ireland (Cork: Cork University Press, 2009).
  41. ^ "Panti - High Heels In Low Places". Archived from the original on 1 November 2014.
  42. ^ "Seán The Transvestite Farmer". Nighthawks. 9 October 1990. RTÉ.
  43. ^ Sunday Breakfast with Dee Reddy | Archived 2014-02-03 at the Wayback Machine
  44. ^ "Pantisocracy - RTÉ Radio 1". Pantisocracy.
  45. ^ ISBN 978-1444798562
  46. ^ "thegalas". thegalas.
  47. ^ "Blog Awards Ireland".
  48. ^ [1] Archived 2017-02-26 at the Wayback Machine "Attitude Magagzine Awards"
  49. ^ "Panti Bliss, Garda whistleblowers named People of the Year".
  50. ^ "Rory O'Neill Receives James Joyce Award".
  51. ^ "TCD confers honours on McVerry, Norris and Panti Bliss".

External linksEdit