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A few short weeks ago, I was transfixed and pleasantly taken aback by the spectacle of Ireland's prime minister Enda Kenny slamming the Catholic Church for encouraging and covering up pedophile priests for so many generations (and whoa, nelly, were the intrinsically disordered girls in the Vatican throwing hissy fits over that); more recently, Eire even withdrew its ambassador to the Vatican. I couldn't have asked for a more explicit example of how this country's come a long way, baby – once literally enthralled to one particular (and of course massively hypocritical) mafia of dudes in dresses, now it’s embracing diversity and becoming more liberated from the cruelty and ignorance of the past.
Inevitably, along with that, the climate has finally started to become more hopeful for equal rights for all. There’s still a long way to go, especially in the smaller towns and out in the boonies, but consider that faggotry was still officially a crime in Eire up until just 17 years ago, and in 2010 parliament and the president approved same-sex civil unions (Northern Ireland also does ’em). A gay MP, David Norris, was at one point a serious contender in the polls to become the next president in this year’s election. Trust me, Sister Mary Charles is having epileptic conniptions these days.
And though the Emerald Isle’s always been fetching as a destination – verdant hills and vales, castles and fortresses, quaint villages, spectacular coastlines, the literary trail, of course pub crawls – in the 21st century you might say it’s also really put the “gay lick” into Gaelic, with several of its metro areas evolving into fun – even fairly hip – homo havens.
Being the capital and largest urb, Dublin (pop. 1.5 million) is of course in the lead, and while it’s hardly, say, London, the nightlife, dining scene, and gay life in general can be kinda kickin’. A lot of it goes on in and around the Temple Bar area just south of the River Liffey, with some spots north of the river and spread out elsewhere in central Dublin. The city’s oldest (and after 23 years still the biggest and famousest) gay spot is in the Temple Bar, too: The George (89 South Great George’s Street; gay pride float above), plus its three-year-old offshoot nearby, the Dragon Bar (64-45 South Great George’s Street), is pretty cool, too. Other spots worth a gander include the Front Lounge (33 Parliament Street, 670.4112) and Centre Stage Café (6 Parliament Street, 670.3390). For cutting to the chase, there’s also a pair of saunas, The Boilerhouse (12 Crane Lane, 677.9578) and The Dock (Upper Ormond Quay, 872.4172). Plenty of places to stay, too, and most are pretty queer-friendly these days. For central and gay all the way, try Inn on the Liffey (21 Upper Ormand Quay, 011.353.1/677.0828), which is connected to the Dock Sauna, and Nua Haven (011.353. (0) 87 686-7062); for a feed, stylish and nouvellish Odessa (13-14 Dame Court, 670.7634) is one of more than a dozen gay-popular spots. And by the way, i f you can swing a trip next June, Dublin Pride (June 22-July 1) would be well worth your while. Get more info on the Dublin scene at a great web site called QueerID.com.
Other cities worth checking out bentwise include picturesque Cork down south; Galway, with lots of students and spots to take in some traditional Irish music; and believe or not even Belfast up in Northern Ireland (one of its clubs in particular, Kremlin, I hear is quite the hoot hoot, comrades).
For more info, check out GayIreland.com, DoChara.com (gay-friendly Ireland), Gay Community News, DiscoverIreland.com, and Shamrock.org. And Erin go soon!