Stephen Lehane, from Glenageary, won the 12th annual Mr Gay Ireland (MGI) competition that took place in Chambers Bar, Cork, the first time the competition was held outside Dublin.
Director Brian Merriman said that the decision for the move was “to celebrate the hard work of Mr Gay Ireland 2016 champion, Cork’s Konrad Im”.
MGI is no beauty competition, as each contestant has to raise awareness and funds for HIV to benefit the Guide Clinic at St James’ Hospital Dublin.
In total €158,000 has now been raised for HIV charities and gay causes since 2005.
Stephen, who was representing Dublin Club PrHomo, said: “My sister Jess and dad Brendan were both down in Cork on the night for the competition.
“Jess is a primary school teacher so she had made badges for everyone with my face on them, laminated and everything.
“My dad surprised me by coming, as we’d never even really discussed me being gay until the competition, but now he’s my number one fan.
“My mam, Laura and my brother Si, were both sending their love too and have been bragging to everyone about my win.”
Stephen used sign language in his opening round and has a strong commitment to inclusion in the LGBT community and wider society.
“We were delighted with the welcome for the event in Cork,” said founding director Brian Merriman.
“Our entertainment was top class and included The Voice’s Keith Hanley, Youtube sensation Sparkle and Letycha Le’Synn, in the company of judges Raf Van Puymbroeck, Mr Gay Europe, Lockdown Models Director Vivienne McCarthy, Red FM’s David Mac and Mr Gay Belgium Director, Bram Bierkens.”
Stephen will now go forward to work on his chosen causes to raise HIV awareness. He will represent Ireland at the Mr Gay Europe Competition in Stockholm, Sweden in August
Ireland was the first country in the world to win both the Mr Gay World title (Max Krzyzanowski in 2009) and the Mr Gay Europe title, with Robbie Obara in 2013.
Stephen, who is Dublin born and raised, works in HR at Google’s European Headquarters.
He said: “I’m very lucky to be in a position in my life where I’m happy, confident and proud of who I am.
“So what’s important to me now is to be able to empower and support the people around me and in my community.
“I’ve gained a lot from being part of the LGBT community, and I want to be able to give back. I’d like to focus on educating the community about HIV and STIs, as well as promoting and normalising STI testing.”