Gay time in Limerick
Castleconnell man Shane Coleman, the recently crowned Mr. Gay Limerick, led hundreds of people through the streets of the city during the annual pride parade earlier this month.
But the 21-year-old has now set his eyes on the Mr. Gay Ireland pageant in October, and is hoping to take home the title.
He won the local title during at an event hosted in 31 Thomas Street by Madanna Lucia.
"I would love to win and do Limerick proud. Things are definitely getting easier for the gay community. All my family and friends have been supportive of me, and that's a huge thing,” Coleman said.
"There are plenty of services for gay people in Limerick and with marriage equality coming through it's going to make a big difference," he added.
This year's parade aimed to be even bigger, bolder and louder than last year, and it certainly didn't disappoint.
Despite the rain, hundreds of people took part in the Limerick pride parade, a celebration of the local gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.
Marching from City Hall up O'Connell Street, the parade was led by Mr. Gay Limerick and Miss Alternative Limerick.
Dressed in a short black fringe dress, a blonde wig and full make-up, Ms. Heidi Hot Lips – a/k/a Miss Alternative Limerick -- said their community just wish to be accepted as "normal people."
"We're just normal people. I'm wearing a dress now and a wig, but at the end of the day we're just humans," said the German native, who is the reigning Miss Alternative Limerick.
While the sun shone intermittently during the "rainbow parade,” he was well prepared for the occasion, wearing four pairs of tights.
Richard Lynch, of ilovelimerick.com, which promotes the city, attended the parade with his mother and father, who were proud to support their son.
"No matter where you come from, whether you're from an under-privileged area in Limerick, or you're a refugee, asylum seeker or gay person, I feel we all face challenges,” he said.
"We're all on the same path and are looking for the same thing -- freedom and acceptance.”
- Limerick Leader
Clare Councilor Brian Meaney came under intense pressure at a county council meeting after he sought to expose a tourist attraction not being capitalized upon by the county, that of nudist bathing.
“Nudist bathing is a considerable tourist attraction that is not being catered for in Clare. In my research into this, it is an offense under common law to be naked in a public place,” he began.
Meaney’s motion requested that the council review and amend the beach bylaws to facilitate the orderly provision of nudist bathing areas on one or more beaches in the county, and to enact draft bylaws to facilitate nudist bathing areas.
Councilor Cathal Crowe referred to the motion as “an absolute joke” and called for Meaney to withdraw it rather than “clogging up our time with this rá méis. It should be thrown out.”
Councilor P.J. Kelly agreed with these sentiments and said he felt the motion was “crazy,” likening it to “a new form of A&E, Adam and Eve.”
Meaney’s motion was seconded by Councilor Martin Conway, and also showing support for the motion was Councilor Patricia McCarthy, who highlighted that the county had a culture of nudist bathing for years.
“There have been coves and beaches where it has gone on, off and on. There is nothing wrong with it and the motion deserves proper consideration. I’ll support the motion and seek changes in the law that are discriminating against people who do this, who can now find themselves charged with indecent behavior and be labeled as a sexual deviant,” she stated.
Meaney stated, “Ireland is the only country where it is a serious offense to expose yourself in public. We need to look at the situation. I don’t understand why they do it. I think it is lunacy myself. The law is an ass in this.”
Pressure came upon Meaney to amend his motion further by simply calling for central government to enact legislation that would enable local authorities to introduce bylaws to facilitate nudist bathing.
He agreed, and the amended motion stated that the council request government to enact legislation to allow local authorities draft bylaws to facilitate the orderly provision of nudist bathing areas. This amended version was put to a vote and was passed by a majority.
- Clare Champion
A group of kind-hearted Welsh people dug deep to help fund an annual summer holiday for Athlone wheelchair users which had been under threat due to a funding shortage.
Members of the Athlone branch of the Irish Wheelchair Association have taken their summer holiday in the small town of Llanrwst, Wales, each year since 1996.
However the trip, for 15 wheelchair users and their 15 helpers, along with some coach drivers and musicians, looked like it would have to be discontinued because sufficient funds were no longer available.
"We've been going over there for the last 15 years but we were running low in funds, so we figured that this would be our last year," said the chairman of the local group, Pat Claffey.
When locals in Llanrwst heard this, they sprung into action and organized collections and raffles in support of the group's trip. And when the Athlone visitors arrived for their holiday in July they were bowled over by the amounts contributed.
"Victoria Gordon of the New Inn pub led the fundraising and we were presented with a check for £1,500 which had been raised from collections, raffles and ticket sales," said Claffey.
"Victoria also gave us £500 out of the till in the pub, and when the British Legion Club heard about our situation they gave us a check for £100.
It was a wonderful gesture to raise this money for us, and we're very thankful. It means that we'll be able to go back there again in 2011."
The Mayor of Llanrwst, Christine Humphreys, praised the efforts of the local residents in facilitating their Athlone visitors.
"Llanrwst is a close-knit and warm-hearted community and this is typical of the town's strong community spirit. We love having our Irish visitors here and are pleased they will be coming back,” she said.
Frank Earle, the treasurer of the Athlone group, stated that the first visit to Llanrwst was supposed to be a one-off, "but we found the people so friendly that we've been coming back each year since."
- Westmeath Independent
Mom, child assaulted
A terrified mother of five relived the shocking moment when a gang savagely beat her with iron bars before setting fire to a van with her three-year-old daughter still trapped inside.
Ann McDonnell was just pulling into her driveway at Kenagh's Clough Dillon’s development when she was suddenly set upon by up to five women.
As she tried desperately to protect her youngest child, three-year-old Ruby, who was still strapped to her seat, McDonnell said the gang suddenly attacked, throwing petrol over her and her daughter in the process.
"I was just terrified they were going to set the van alight with Ruby still inside," she said from her hospital bed in Mullingar's Midland Regional Hospital. "I couldn't defend myself. All I can remember is being hit again and again with iron bars."
In the midst of the struggle, McDonnell claimed herself and her eldest son, Martin, 11, managed to unstrap Ruby from the van seconds before it was set alight.
Three days on from her ordeal, McDonnell admitted she remains fearful of a repeat attack when doctors eventually decide she can return home.
"I don't know how we got her (Ruby) out and I am still having nightmares about it," she said. "My little girl couldn't even look at me yesterday when she came to see me. What kind of people can do such a thing?"
Gardai (police) have said they are following a definite line of inquiry following the incident.
Mrs. Robinson’s play
A controversial new play inspired by a sex scandal surrounding the shamed wife of Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson is set to open in Belfast.
Disgraced Iris Robinson, who sat in the Northern Ireland Assembly and the House of Commons, quit politics after the shock revelation earlier this year that she had had an affair with a teenager 41 years her junior.
God's Country was written by Colin Bell, 33, a gay man from Bangor, Co. Down, after Mrs. Robinson sparked a huge row by calling homosexuality "an abomination."
Bell, who lives in Edinburgh with his long-term partner, said, "Iris Robinson may have been engaged in a homophobic rant but my play isn't a rant against her.
"It is an examination of how other politicians in Northern Ireland are dealing with homosexuality. And it also explores how the DUP have changed in the wake of Irisgate."
The playwright was bullied at school because of his sexuality and left Northern Ireland aged 17 to escape the abuse.
Bell's play is one of three new productions about life in Northern Ireland being staged by the Tinderbox Theatre Company in the Crescent Arts Center in Belfast.