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FABULOUS BEASTS

As Pantibar gears up to celebrate ten gloriously gay years, its owner Rory O’Neill (aka Panti Bliss) and the man behind its image, Niall Sweeney talk to Brian Finnegan about three decades at the heart of Dublin’s queer scene and cultural evolution, from lthy fetish clubs to Alternative Misses and beyond.

Graphic designer Niall Sweeney’s multi-disciplinary, sociopolitical approach to his work has seen him become part of the fabric and evolution of Dublin’s queer scene, beginning with designing flyers and installations for the legendary Sides nightclub in the 1980s, and designing the very first issue of GCN, back in 1988. He’s most known for co-creating and designing Alternative Miss Ireland, which ran for 25 years and raised over a quarter of a million euro for Irish HIV and Aids organisations, and he’s also the man behind the visual identity of Pantibar, which celebrates its 10th birthday this year. However, few know how intricately Niall has been connected to the evolution of Queen of Ireland, Panti herself.

As Rory O’Neill self-effacingly says during this conversation piece, celebrating not only ten years of his fabulous gay bar, but reflecting on over three decades of being at the heart of Ireland’s LGBT+ scene: “I’m sometimes accused of having talent, but I think my real talent is working with really great people and letting them do their thing.” And Rory has fundamentally let the enormously talented Niall Sweeney do his thing, not only in creating the iconography of a drag icon persona that would become a national treasure, but in placing Panti front and centre in the story of Ireland’s queer cultural flowering.

“For the first time you had this sense of liberated queers in Dublin, and their straight mates were totally on board and involved with it.

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About GCN

Our provocative cover by artist and designer, Niall Sweeney, celebrates ten years of Pantibar while cheekily harking back to a certain fetish club both he and Rory O'Neill (aka Panti) ran in the mid-90s. Inside we discuss Sweeney's long-term artistic relationship with O'Neill and how their friendship has informed the evolution of Dublin's queer scene over three decades (the full recording of which is available via GCN’s new podcast Q&A: The Queer and Alternative Podcast). Elsewhere we talk to some high-flying champions of LGBT+ diversity in companies like Vodafone, Deloitte, Accenture Ireland, eir and Web Summit, about the benefits of bringing your authentic self to work, and the members of Intertech Ireland tell us about connecting the LGBT+ tech workforce. Chris O’Donnell hears from some non-national LGBTs who are effectively serving time in Ireland’s hellish Direct Provision centres about the double discrimination of being an LGBT+ asylum seeker. Shaun Dunne, author of a documentary-style play featuring the testimony of those living with HIV speaks to members of ACT UP ahead of its Dublin Theatre Festival run, and Ray O'Neill talks work/life balance. Plus, all the best news, opinion, reviews, events, and much more.