Ireland’s 10 most famous GAY & LESBIAN people EVER

Ireland’s 10 most famous gay & lesbian people of all time – read on to discover which famous Irish figures feature on our list.

Ireland is home to a rich and vibrant community of people. Having lived for generations in the shadows of past, out-dated and unequal legislation, a promising new Ireland has stood into the light, as Liberalisation is one of the ways Ireland has changed over the last 40 years.

On 22 May 2015, Ireland was the first county in the world to vote gay marriage into law by public referendum. It was a day of celebration for everyone – regardless of sexual orientation or identity – who believes in equality for all.

In recognition of that momentous day and Ireland’s LGBTQ community, here’s a nod to the country’s 10 most famous LGBTQ people of all time.

Ireland Before You Die’s top facts about Ireland’s 10 most famous gay & lesbian people

  • Graham Norton is undoubtedly one of the most famous people from Ireland. To show this, the Corkman holds the Guinness World Record for winning the most chat host awards.
  • Francis Bacon is regarded as one of the most significant 20th-century artists. His work revolved around portraits and religious imagery.
  • Oscar Wilde is one of the greatest literary figures to hail from the Emerald Isle. Wilde was convicted of “gross indecency” as a result of his homosexuality, leading to two years hard labour.
  • Another iconic figure on this list is Brendan Courtney, who is a famous Irish fashion designer and TV presenter. He also advocated for inclusion and diversity within these industries.
  • Anna Nolan has done it all! She is a successful businesswoman, presenter, producer and an Irish basketball player.

10. Mary Byrne – the power ballads

Ireland's 10 most famous GAY & LESBIAN people of ALL TIME

Who could forget the power ballads of Irish gem Mary Byrne? After rising to fame with her 2011 X-Factor audition, she won the hearts of her fellow country-people as well as international recognition.

The gay singer sadly lost her spot in the semi-final round of the live series but she has gone from strength to strength, performing her own live shows, releasing albums and even doing a spot of acting, too!

9. Anna Nolan – a successful businesswoman

Ireland's 10 most famous GAY & LESBIAN people of ALL TIME

Anna Nolan is a businesswoman; she is a presenter, producer and even an Irish international basketball player.

Having come out at the age of 22, she is open and vocal about her journey and finding acceptance with her family and peers.

8. Brendan Courtney – Ireland’s first openly gay presenter

Ireland's 10 most famous GAY & LESBIAN people of ALL TIME

As Ireland’s first openly gay presenter on nationwide and international airwaves, we got to give a shout out to Brendan Courtney. As a fine face in the media, a presenter and fashion stylist, he is known for an endless array of TV credits.

Top picks from us include The Brendan Courtney Show on TV3, Blind Date on ITV2 and Love Match on ITV1.

He also launched his very own fashion label in 2012 entitled Lennon Courtney, alongside Irish designer and businesswoman, Sonya Lennon.

READ MORE: The people on this list have been trailblazers, so make sure to make the most of the best LGBT+ bars and clubs in Ireland

7. Leo Varadkar – courage to come out in politics

Ireland's 10 most famous GAY & LESBIAN people of ALL TIME

Leo Varadkar is a gay Irish politician who has served as Taoiseach, Minister for Defence and Leader of Fine Gael since June 2017.

After coming out, he has grown to become an interesting candidate, reflecting a shift in Ireland’s old stuffy political image. Finally.

Not only is he the youngest politician to hold office at 38, but he is Ireland’s first openly gay head of government.

6. David Norris – bringing down the homophobic laws

Ireland's 10 most famous GAY & LESBIAN people of ALL TIME

This legend most certainly makes it on to our list. Senator David Norris is well… an independent senator, he is a gay rights activist and a scholar.

He is credited as single-handedly bringing down homophobic laws, which brought about the peril of legendary Irish poet, Oscar Wilde, after a tenacious 14-year campaign. Serious respect for that!

5. Philip Treacy – living in London

Ireland's 10 most famous GAY & LESBIAN people of ALL TIME

The gay-and-proud Irish haute couture milliner (a fancy way of saying a hat designer), lives and thrives in London where his designs have graced endless runways and been splayed across pages of every top fashion magazine.

READ: For more places to celebrate the LGBT+ community on the Emerald Isle, read IB4U’s article on the top 10 best gay bars in Ireland for 2023

4. Graham Norton – one of Ireland’s 10 most famous gay & lesbian people

Ireland's 10 most famous GAY & LESBIAN people of ALL TIME

When acknowledging gay Irish icons, one’s mind has got to jump to Graham Norton, TV presenting wizard and top notch funny-man.

Hosting his hilarious self-titled talk-show, The Graham Norton Show, the man himself has won an impressive an eight BAFTA awards (five of which are for his show!)

We love him best for his role as Father Noel in Father Ted:

All we can say, is we salute you, Graham Norton! 

READ MORE: See where Graham Norton ranks on our list of the top 10 best Irish comedians of all time

3. Francis Bacon – world-renowned artist

Ireland's 10 most famous GAY & LESBIAN people of ALL TIME

This globally-renowned gay Irish artist is one of the leading figures on our list. As a figurative painter, his work generally revolved around portraits and religious iconography.

Francis Bacon was openly gay and today he is still considered to be one of the greatest artists to have come from the Emerald Isle.

2. Rory O’Neill – stage name Panti Bliss

Ireland's 10 most famous GAY & LESBIAN people of ALL TIME

No gay-pride list would be complete without our very own Rory O’Neill. Also known by stage-name Panti Bliss, or, simply, Panti, Rory O’Neill is one of the leading gay rights and equality campaigners in all of Ireland.

Hailing from County Mayo, this drag queen superstar not only spearheads tonnes of gay pride events and experiences but also hosts the annual Alternative Miss Ireland pageant, not to mention launching on of Dublin’s best gay bars, Pantibar in 2007.

1. Oscar Wilde – one of Ireland’s greatest ever literary figures

Ireland's 10 most famous GAY & LESBIAN people of ALL TIME

To top our list, it has to be legendary Irish poet Oscar Wilde. Although Wilde kept his homosexuality a secret – it was a criminal offence in England at the time – he would be punished for his crimeless “crime”, having had an affair with a British aristocrat. This punishment would eventually lead to his demise.

We got to give the man serious credit though, he never did flee to exile, like so many of his comrades advised, he stood his ground strong and we salute him for that!

LEARN MORE about this legend with IB4UD’s article on the top 10 facts about Oscar Wilde that you probably never knew

Your questions answered about Ireland’s 10 most famous gay & lesbian people of all time

Read our article on Ireland’s 10 most famous gay & lesbian people of all time and still have some questions? Then you are in the right place; see below for the most frequently asked questions about this topic.

Who is the gay Irish actress?

Rosie O’Donnell is a popular Irish-American LGBT+ actress and icon. She won six Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Talk Show Host.

Who is the gay presenter in Ireland?

This is referring to Brendan Courtney, who ranks highly on our list. He was Ireland’s first openly gay TV presenter and was one of the key public figures in the ‘Yes’ referendum for gay marriage in 2015.

Who was the famous Irish gay writer?

This would be Oscar Wilde. He is one of Ireland’s most iconic literary figures. He suffered for his homosexuality, facing jail time as it was then a crime.


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