From LGBTQ+-friendly social attitudes to electing a gay Prime Minister, Ireland is one of the best places to live as a gay-identifying person. In fact, in 2015, Ireland became the first country to legalize gay marriage by public referendum in a day of celebration of equality for everyone.
The Republic of Ireland is home to a diverse range and vibrant community of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer celebrities that includes Anna Nolan, Graham Norton, David Norris, Celviademai, and Oscar Wilde.
Discover the top 20 diverse gay celebrities from Ireland today.
1. Oscar Wilde
As one of the most important 19th-century Irish poets, novelists, and playwrights, Oscar Wilde is also one of the most important figures in gay Irish history. After attending both Oxford and Trinity College in Dublin, Wilde went on to write internationally famous masterpieces that included The Importance of Being Earnest and The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Even though Wilde married a woman, he identified as a gay man and had to keep his real preferences a secret. He even went to Pentonville prison in London after an affair with a British male aristocrat due to the legal system that criminalized consensual relationships with men. After his release, Wilde headed into exile in Paris where he lived until he died in 1900 at age 46.
2. Leo Varadkar
You know that Ireland is a gay-friendly nation when the citizens elect gay leaders. For example, in 2017, Leo Varadkar acted as Leader of the Fine Gael and Taoiseach, Minister of Defense.
After Varadkar came out, he developed into an interesting political candidate that reflected a radical shift in Ireland’s traditional political image. He is not only the youngest Irish politician to get elected to office, at age 38, but Varadkar is also the country’s first head of government to present as an openly gay person.
3. Anna Nolan
Irish television presenter, producer, businesswoman, and international Irish basketball player, Anna Nolan has a reputation for being loud and proud about her journey to lifestyle acceptance among her family and peers.
Born in 1970, Nolan is known for coming out at age 22. She has worn many hats in many careers, from waitress to sports figure and TV presenter, and she has presented multiple programs for TV both in Ireland and in the UK.
This Irish legend is also a well-known gay rights activist.
4. Graham Norton
Born in 1963, Norton is known as a popular actor, comedian, author, and presenter.
This icon is one of the nation’s top funny men and a wizard at television presenting. Norton also hosts a hilarious program called The Graham Norton Show, where he has landed a whopping 8 BAFTA awards – five of them for his award-winning personal talk show.
This year, Graham found himself occupied with duties for presenting Eurovision in Liverpool. During this period, The Chris and Rosie Ramsey Show replaced The Graham Norton Show to help viewers stay up to date with the most current UK and Irish shows.
5. David Norris
This Irish legend is also a well-known gay rights activist and scholar. Norris is often credited with overturning homophobic laws in Ireland – the same laws that imprisoned famous Irish poet and author, Oscar Wilde – after a stubborn campaign that lasted for 14 years.
Norris served previously as a university lecturer and as an Oireachtas member since 1987. He is also the first openly gay person to get elected in Ireland to public office. In addition to his role as a celebrated founder of the Campaign for Homosexual Law Reform, Norris is also a leading member of the Protestant Church in Ireland.
6. Danny La Rue
Born as Daniel Patrick Carrol in 1927, Irish personality, entertainer, and singer Danny La Rue shot to fame due to his flamboyant drag persona that he unveiled on stage.
Not only did La Rue do shows in drag, but he also played himself in a variety of films, TV shows, and even theater productions as an unashamed queer man.
7. Sinead O’Connor
Famed for her singer-songwriter abilities, O’Connor is also a big women’s rights advocate, a queer icon, and an opponent of organized religion.
Although O’Connor’s marriages have all been to men, she has also had three relationships with women.
8. Stanley Mary Byrne
Many people in Ireland consider the gay ballad singer Mary Byrne as a powerful LGBTQ+ musical gem.
In 2011, Byrne rose to fame due to her X-factor audition where she gained the love of her country-people and also obtained international fame for her musical merits.
Unfortunately, the gay Irish ballad singer lost her place during the live series’ round of semi-finals, but since then, Byrne has gone on to release music albums, perform her own shows live on stage, and even got into an acting career.
9. Philip Treacy
This haute couture designer is an award-winning, gay Irish milliner based in London. He is also an Order of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) due to his impressive ready-to-wear couture collections.
Treacy is an out and proud gay man whose creative insights play a big role in his unique designs that have graced multiple runways and splashed across top fashion magazine pages.
10. Brian Kennedy
Brian Kennedy is a gay singer, songwriter, and author who came out at age 16 to his friends and family while growing up in Belfast in the 1970s-1980s. In his early years, Kennedy told RSVP Magazine that he stayed in the closet to the public because homosexuality was still illegal and frowned upon by the church in Ireland.
Before coming out in public in 2009, Kennedy released multiple music singles and albums during the 1990s in both Ireland and in the UK.
11. Andrew Scott
Born in Dublin in 1976, Andrew Scott is a popular gay Irish actor who has earned recognition for his stage and television presence. Scott became famous due to playing Jim Moriarty in BBC’s Sherlock series. This role even gained him the BAFTA Television Award for Best Supporting Actor.
The actor is acclaimed both for his stage work in comedy and drama. Scott received the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor for playing Hamlet at the Almeida Theater in 2017. He has also received nominations for both a Primetime Emmy Award and the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor for his role of Priest in Fleabag’s second season. He’s also snagged awards for the Critic’s Choice Television Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.
As a gay man, Scott doesn’t hide his sexual orientation but also doesn’t feel the need to regularly get loud and proud about it. According to Scott, that’s because he is implicitly gay, but doesn’t need to defend his lifestyle to the world.
12. Brendan Courtney
As a famous face in the Irish media, Brendan Courtney is the first openly gay presenter on Irish and international airwaves. He is also a fashion stylist who has picked up a wide range of television credits for appearances.
In addition to launching Lennon Courtney, his own fashion label, in collaboration with Sonya Lennon, an Irish businesswoman and fashion designer, Courtney has also appeared on Blind Date ITV2, ITV1’s Love Match, and TV3’s The Brendan Courtney Show.
13. James Patrice
Social media influencer and RTÉ presenter, James Patrice, believes that gay pride is about having the courage to be your authentic self, to stand up for people who are still on their journey to find their voice, and to celebrate advances in the LGBTQ+ community.
James thinks that once you take the plunge and live as your own authentic self, everything in life, including sequins, is a fabulous ride.
Patrice says that he wasn’t always this way. In fact, as a kid, the presenter and influencer was painfully shy. He felt that this kept him from being his best and truest self. Now, if he wants to get all glammed up for a drag role, he isn’t afraid to go all out.
14. Alan Hughes
Ireland AM’s presenter and personality Alan Hughes thinks that pride helps make the LGBTQ community more visible and accepted in the world. Born in 1963, the famous Irish celebrity says that this new attitude contrasts with the old ways where people didn’t know much about gay people or how to become part of a community.
He has stood out as a proud gay man on Virgin Media TV for the past 20 years. Hughes is also married to a great man named Karl. Considering how far he and his partner have come, Hughes understands how hard it can still be for people to come out. He advocates for families to become inclusive of gay members since celebrating diversity helps everyone live safer and happier lives.
15. Katie McCabe
Katie McCabe is a renowned football captain for the Republic of Ireland. Over the years, McCabe has participated in gay pride celebrations that give her a sense of inclusion and belonging.
As a young person, McCabe attended pride parades with her sister and football mates when she lived in Dublin. She says that pride celebrations where everyone joins to celebrate their authentic selves is a fantastic thing. It’s made her more comfortable in her own skin, made her feel good about herself, and enabled her to focus on her football career as a lesbian woman.
16. Darren Kennedy
Business. entrepreneur and TV host Darren Kennedy says that over time, gay pride celebrations have evolved for him. While previously he enjoyed them as a time to celebrate equality and freedom among friends and family, the Marriage Equality Act changed that in a big way.
Kennedy says that he’s proud to live in an inclusive country such as Ireland where gay people and topics are becoming normalized in mainstream media and everyday conversations. This public support is particularly obvious since Ireland voted gay marriage rights into existence by public referendum.
Now, Kennedy says, the relaxed legal and cultural atmosphere means that he is more aware of people in places around the world who don’t have access to an LGBTQ+ community and are still forced to hide their true identities due to laws that criminalize their lifestyle.
17. Elizabeth O’Ferrell and Julia Grenan
Not all gay Irish people existed in the 20th or 21st centuries. In fact, the 19th and early 20th centuries saw many prominent Irish people. Just because they lived their own lives in secret didn’t mean that they had the ability to come out in public about their sexual orientation.
In many ways, lesbians were more able to conceal their preferences since unmarried women often lived together for economic and social reasons.
Two of these people were Elizabeth O’Ferrell and Julia Grenan. Not only did the two women have a close relationship, but they were also pro-Irish activists who worked as nurses, couriers, and ammunition delivery people during the Easter Rising in 1916.
When the uprising ended, O’Farrell took the surrender notes to the rebel stations. Meanwhile, Grenan stayed on as one of the last Irish rebels to abandon the GPO. Upon their deaths, the couple lay buried together at Glasnevin cemetery under an inscription that bore testimony to both women as faithful comrades and lifelong friends.
Based in the beautiful Galway region of Ireland, black rapper, singer, and songwriter Celaviedmai celebrates both her musical journey and her experience as a gay person.
Living in Ireland has enabled the singer to express her pride in the ability and freedom to love, live in her truth, and exist.
19. Rory O’Neill
Rory O’Neill, also known by Panti Bliss, is one of the top gay rights activists in Ireland today.
The drag queen is an LGBTQ+ superstar who has spearheaded many pride events and hosts the Alternative Miss Ireland pageant every year. Panti also launched Pantibar, one of Dublin’s most successful and popular gay bars, in 2007.
20. Francis Bacon
The final gay Irish celebrity on our list lived all the way back during the late English Renaissance period. Francis Bacon earned a name as the “Father of Modern Science”. He was also, by contemporary accounts, a gay man who had many male lovers. He managed to keep this an open secret among his family and avoided falling prey to the criminalization laws of the time.
This fact has been suppressed by Bacon’s biographers over the years before being rediscovered in the 21st century.