Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister has skipped a St Patrick’s Day trip to Savannah to avoid a Hibernian Order ‘male only’ dinner.
Labor Party leader Eamon Gilmore dropped Savannah from his list of destinations as a government ambassador on Ireland’s national holiday.
The country’s Minister for Foreign Affairs did visit nearby Atlanta.
High profile government ministers have attended the ‘men only’ dinner in Savannah according to a report in the Irish Times.
The paper says Gilmore dropped a visit to Savannah because he would have had to attend a men-only dinner.
Savannah annually hosts one of the biggest St Patrick’s Day celebrations in the southern United States.
Any visit to the city on Georgia would have required Gilmore to attend the anniversary dinner of the Hibernian Society of Savannah.
One of the city’s main St Patrick’s Day events, it is an exclusively male dinner according to the paper.
The report adds that Savannah was excluded from Gilmore’s itinerary before any formal invitation was issued for the Hibernian Society dinner or before any arrangements regarding his attendance were put in place.
Speaking in Atlanta on Friday, Gilmore told the paper that he understood that his attendance at the dinner was to be a major part of a trip to Savannah so he had decided not to visit the city.
He has opted instead to visit New Orleans on Saturday for St Patrick’s Day events before travelling on to Washington DC.
Gilmore insisted he would decline to attend any men-only event as part of any foreign travel programme.
He said: “Count me out - I’m not doing it. I don’t believe in segregation either on a gender basis or on any other basis.”
Savannah has one of the biggest Irish populations in the American southeast and holds the second largest St Patrick’s Day parade in the US with over 500,000 people attending the event every year.
Gilmore added: “It is not a case of me not wanting to go to Savannah but there is no point in bringing me to Savannah if one of the major parts of the programme is going to be a men-only event.”
In response, Hibernian Society’s president William Bruggeman said: “We are not aware of any politician, Irish or US, that has ever declined an invitation to attend our anniversary dinner held on St Patrick’s Day evening due to disagreement with any of our traditions.”
Previously, Fianna Fáil ministers John O’Donoghue and Noel Dempsey travelled to the city in 2009 and 2010.