Panti Bliss tops list of influential Europeans

Drag Queen, Panti Bliss, has been named as the most eye-catching Irish person on a list of who is shaping Europe.
Panti Bliss tops list of influential Europeans

It is the first time the new and very successful Brussels-based media, Politico, has devised such a list for the EU. Its sister publication in the US has a similar annual gallery.

Panti Bliss, who is otherwise Mayo-man Rory O’Neill, tweeted his response: “There I am, “shaking” Europe. (Though my corset is doing the “shaping”)”.

Politico explained that they chose their list of 28 by asking, “Who are the most eye-catching people in each of the 28 states of the European Union? Our aim was to identify persons who don’t command attention merely by virtue of the office they hold. So there’s no Angela Merkel for Germany, for example”.

The result, they said, “comprises people who are not in obviously powerful positions, or with overwhelming popular appeal, but are on the cusp of power, where the greatest influence is so often exerted”.

So Panti joins a Maltese humanitarian, an Italian lawyer, a Belgian musician, a Polish bishop, Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon, Margrethe Vestager who is investigating tax deals with multinationals for the Commission, including Ireland’s arrangements with Apple.

Panti was chosen mainly for his gay rights and same sex marriage referendum campaigning success, saying that “modern Ireland found the antidote to its socially conservative, Catholic image in gender-bending gay rights activist Rory O’Neill”.

Politico recounted the “Pantigate” incident, where RTÉ had to apologise and pay compensation to two columnists and the Iona Institute, after he criticised their attitude to gays.

“The debacle — dubbed “Pantigate” — catapulted homophobia to the top of the national agenda, pitting Ireland’s old guard against its social progressives. Within a week of the payout, Bliss, resplendent in a purple dress and blonde wig, made a 10-minute speech about the affair that went viral online”, Politico explained.

Panti captured the public imagination in a country that didn’t decriminalise gay sex until 1993, helped, he said, by the perception of drag queens as fun and divorced from the “messy moral questions that plague other public figures”.

He told Politico that his next battle is fighting for LGBT rights outside Ireland. “Is Putin ready for a Russian drag queen extraordinaire?”, the publication asks.

Panti was placed 12th in the European league with his slogan of “Peace, prosperity and equality through togetherness”. His most admired person is Alan Turing — the code breaker against Nazi Germany in WWII — and the three things he takes everywhere with him are his phone, his medication, “and I would like to say my dog but I can’t always take her everywhere because of EU regulations”.

Politico explained that all on their list have “the ability to shape their space of impact, whether it be a country, a transitional activity, a legal system, a referendum, a religion, a crisis or even the very notion of European identity”.

As a result they chose Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s prime minister who refused to take migrants from Italy and Greece in the EU’s attempt to share the burden earlier this year and subsequently closed the borders to refugees. He is “the person most worth watching in the months ahead”.

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