Pictures: Panti Bliss leads Irish float in front of half a million people at Sydney's Mardi Gras

Pic: Kate Rawlins

Panti Bliss dazzled the crowds at Sydney’s Mardi Gras last night as she led the Irish float through the city as 500,000 people cheered on.

Rory O’Neill said he felt immense pride to represent Ireland and celebrate diversity at the famous event.

The activist said: “I feel pride, especially since marriage equality in Ireland because people here really know about that so there’s always a great reaction to the Irish float.

Pic: Kate Rawlins

“There’s a delicious Irish quality about our float, you see the Bondi boys with their perfectly sculpted bodies and then we come along with our fun dance routines and crazy colours.

“Personally, of course, I feel very proud because I’m proud of Ireland. I feel really lucky, what a fun thing to do.

“I’m going to look more like an Australian drag queen than I ever have before. Australian drags always wear really bright colours so my outfit is bright lime green, shiny like an Australian drag queen and frills. I’m going to look very Australian.”

Nearly 200 floats featuring 12,000 people were cheered on by half a million well-wishers on Saturday night with pop singer Kylie Minogue even making an appearance.

Over 100 people took part in the Irish float which was organised by Sydney Queer Irish (SQI).

This year the theme was solas and celebrated a history of fearlessness in Irish people that has led to a more inclusive Ireland.

Pic: Kate Rawlins

Bright, life-sized lantern puppets all representing the four provinces of Ireland joined SQI marchers dressed in neon green and pink colours as they danced their way up Oxford Street.

Irish Consul General in Sydney Owen Feeney, who took part on the Irish float, said Ireland and Australia have been on a “shared journey” in terms of gay rights.

He said: “We are really proud of the LGBT plus community here in Sydney. It’s really vibrant and the consulate is delighted to be able to provide a bit of support through the government’s emigrant support programme for SQI to stage this incredible float and bring this group of people together who wouldn’t necessarily be brought together with a lot of creativity and verve.

Pic: Kate Rawlins

“We are very proud of them and it’s a small way of showing our support.

“I think Ireland and Australia have been on a similar journey in terms of gay rights over the last couple of years, we’ve both come through public votes and I think both countries are increasingly tolerant and diverse.

Pic: Kate Rawlins

“It’s a shared journey that we’ve both been on and it’s something that helps bond the gay Irish community here with the gay Australian community.”

Ann-Marie Crotty of Sydney Queer Irish said the community was “so proud to be able to represent Ireland in a positive light in Sydney and highlight the progression Ireland has achieved in the last few years.”

Pic: Kate Rawlins

She said: “We all love the night and it went so well but honestly it’s more about the build-up, building community and making friends.

“For a lot of Irish LGBT folks so far away from home, SQI provides a space to be themselves and celebrate being Irish.

“We are very proud of the effort all our participants put in, from turning up to rehearsals and coming to working bees to make their own props and bedazzle their own tops.

Pic: Kate Rawlins

“It’s so great to be supported by the Irish Consulate in Sydney and amazing to have Panti Bliss with us.”

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