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Irish official skips men-only dinner

| Saturday, March 16, 2013, 9:21 p.m.

SAVANNAH, Ga. — A top Irish government official caused a bit of a trans-Atlantic dust-up on Saturday when he said he had skipped a trip to Savannah to avoid a St. Patrick's Day dinner at which only men are allowed.

Eamon Gilmore, deputy prime minister and foreign minister, instead made stops in Atlanta and New Orleans — where St. Patrick's crowds pale in comparison to the nearly 200-year-old celebration in Savannah. Early Irish immigrants held the first St. Patrick's Day parade in Savannah in 1824, and it has since swelled into a tourism bonanza that draws 400,000 or more revelers each year to the city of 136,000.

Gilmore told the Irish Times that a visit to Georgia's oldest city would have meant that he attend the annual dinner of the Hibernian Society of Savannah, a private event open only to men.

“Count me out. I'm not doing it,” Gilmore said. “I don't believe in segregation either on a gender basis or on any other basis.”

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