Stephen Fry presents ‘Person of the Year’ award to drag queen Panti Bliss

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Irish drag queen activist Panti Bliss has picked up a Person of the Year award.

Drag artist Panti Bliss, played by Rory O’Neill, caused controversy in January this year when she labelled Catholic lobbying group the Iona Institute ‘homophobes’ on an Irish talk show, prompting state broadcaster RTE to award a payout of over €85,000 (£70,000) to the group and associated journalists.

After the controversy, a heartwarming speech that Panti gave about the oppression that gay people face went viral online, and was even sampled as part of a Pet Shop Boys track.

Panti Bliss has since become a household name in Ireland, speaking out for gay rights and same-sex marriage, and releasing her own autobiography last month.

Last night, actor and broadcaster Stephen Fry paid tribute to her work, as she was named one of the People of the Year.

Presenting the award, he said: “I was utterly stunned by Panti’s speech. I thought it was one of the most moving and eloquent calls against oppression of any kind. It was like any great speech, it was suppressed rage but utterly controlled.

“When they asked me to present this award, I said I’d swim across the Irish sea to do it. There aren’t many occasions when one is as touched by something.

“Everything she does is kind of addressed to people in deepest, rural parts of the world where it isn’t so easy to be yourself.”

Panti Bliss joked: “I get all the attention because I’m the prettiest, but there are so many people who do what I do, who slog away in boring offices – all those people who have been doing this for years and years.

“It’s about the movement gaining ground in the country, I just happen to shine attention on it. I’m not really that special.

“I kind of feel this award isn’t for me – but I’m taking it anyway!

“I know there are 13-year-old Rorys watching the television, wherever they are, and it gets better.

“Everything I do is about celebrating everybody’s difference.”

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