TÁNAISTE EAMON GILMORE has been criticised for dropping a visit to the US state of Georgia where he would have attended a men-only dinner in the city of Savannah.
Gilmore would have attended an anniversary dinner for the Hibernian Society of Savannah tonight had he visited the city which holds one of the biggest St Patrick’s Day celebrations in the States.
Previous Fianna Fáil ministers have attended the celebrations in Savannah but the Tánaiste told the Irish Times that he would not be going, saying he did not believe in “segregation either on a gender basis or any other basis”.
The Fianna Fáil TD and spokesperson on transport and tourism, Timmy Dooley, said he was disappointed that the Tánaiste had ‘snubbed’ a visit to Savannah in order to avoid the Hibernian dinner.
“I find it very disappointing that in the year of The Gathering, the Tánaiste has snubbed the second largest St Patrick’s Day Parade in the USA because he appears to have personal issues with the Hibernian Society,” Dooley said in a statement today.
He said that the Hibernian Society of Savannah had been in existence for over 200 years and had tended “to the needs of thousands of Irish immigrants”.
Last year the Taoiseach sent a message to the society, saying he regretted that he could not attend its 200th anniversary celebrations:
YouTube: John Hohenstein
“The Society is a part of Ireland’s Diaspora and has been an integral part of the history of the Irish in the southern part of the US,” Dooley said.
The Fianna Fáil deputy said that he respected that the Tánaiste may have issues with the fact it would be an all-male grouping but added that it was a “mistake to snub their St Patrick’s Day dinner”.
“It is Ireland’s interests that must come first – not the interests of Minister Gilmore or the Labour Party,” he said, adding that it was an “error of judgement”.
The Hibernian Society of Savannah was founded in 1812 for the purpose of offering aid and assistance to needy and Irish immigrants and is one of Savannah’s oldest Irish societies.
All of its officers, committee members and former presidents are men according to its website.