Open letter from Anthony O’Gara
Open letter from Anthony O’Gara, Executive Chairman of the Rose of Tralee International Festival
It’s time to correct some misconceptions about the Rose of Tralee International Festival that are foisted on the unsuspecting public annually by some zealous, angry, if perhaps, misguided social commentators.
The Rose of Tralee is one of the most important threads to connect Irish people throughout the world with home and that is a fact for over 55 years.
We celebrate the Roses, their families and friends in their own home towns first and their arrival in Tralee is a continuation of this celebration.
Along the way, Tralee and many other towns and cities receive a boost to their tourism economy to the tune of €12 million. Numerous charities also benefit from being associated with the event and its people. Most important of all, thousands of people have fun, great friendships are formed and even one million people join the party atmosphere through the magic of live TV.
We’re not sensitive to criticism, but we are sensitive to boorish nonsense from uninformed opinion writers.
So, let’s be a little bit fair when commenting on the festival:
The Rose of Tralee is not all about: Paddy Whackery, Colleens on Parade, Stepford Wives tricked out as national stereotypes, flagrant misogyny or masquerading as Irish culture.
We don’t have a 1950s ethos – we do have a proud history and each year the Roses reflect women as they are today. Their ethos is ours.
We are not interested in stereotyping women. We celebrate exceptional women and accept them as the proud people they are, whatever that might be.
There is no Festival Committee and there has not been a Festival Committee since before 2004. The whole event is managed centrally by a very small management team of part-time people who are supported by a bevy of volunteers and 70 Rose Centres.
Most of the people who are involved in staging the Rose of Tralee International Festival at various levels, from planning to Judging, were born long after the break-up of the Beatles and when the Rolling Stones were past their best.
We choose Judges who want to find a relevant, independent, modern woman to represent the Irish Diaspora with pride and that is their only happy concern.
Please, get over the outdated ‘lovely girls’ joke. We have.
We don’t do more ‘mock Irishness’ or indulge in ‘plastic paddies’. The 200,000 people who engage with us annually and the TV viewers are real people.
To dismiss it, simply by forming opinions based on seeing elements of one of Ireland’s most popular TV shows each year, without attending the Festival is simply an excuse to trot out flagrant verbal rubbish for the sake of it.
This bandwagon has long since lost its wheels after being so laden-down with the prejudices of uninformed bolony of the faux intellectuals who trip over each other to impress their peers.
Roses and the rest of us live in the real world where bad things happen and people struggle. During the Festival they are celebrating and tend to show us their positive side but let’s not patronise them as ‘winsome colleens’. That might be seen as being plain bitchy.
The Roses are obviously pretty exceptional young women which is hardly surprising. They have been chosen from almost 1000 of their peers – all of whom are impressive. They are not professional entertainers. They are endearing people who entertain us and enthral us as best they can through a bit of harmless fun on stage. But most importantly, they reflect some pride in the communities that they represent. We are, in effect, honouring them and celebrating them as representatives of families and communities from our scattered generations.
By all means, be a contrary bystander. We all need some contra opinion to keep us on our toes, but remember this, a week at the Rose of Tralee Festival might just the thing to bring a little magic back into your life.
It’s by a country-mile the best festival in Ireland.
By the way, the Rose of Tralee, Maria Walsh, is on the Late Late Show tonight (Friday 5th September). Let’s see if you don’t fall under the spell.
Rose of Tralee Maria welcomes ‘truth in her eyes’ remark from Mary O’Rourke
THE Rose of Tralee, Maria Walsh, has welcomed the positive feedback and commentary in the media following the publication of the story in the Sun on Sunday in which she said that she’s been openly gay for the past two years.
She particularly welcomed the remark on the Marian Finucane Show on RTE Radio 1 from former Minister Mary O’Rourke who said that the story underlined Maria’s worthiness as the Rose of Tralee who was truthful like the words of the song ‘the truth of her eyes ever dawning’.
Barely able to speak after the dramatic draw between Mayo and Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final in Croke Park, Maria said: “I don’t know if that was what William Muchinock had in mind when he wrote the Rose of Tralee but it’s a lovely comment from Mary O’Rourke. One of the first people I met this morning was a shop-keeper in a filling station en route to Croke Park. When he congratulated me, I asked him if it was for being the Rose of Tralee or after reading the story in the Sun. ‘Both’ he replied. My family are very proud of me and the most important thing to them is that I’m happy and healthy. Right now I’m more excited about the fact that Mayo will have another chance to overcome Kerry next week and hopefully reach next month's All-Ireland Final.”
Since being crowned as the 56th Rose of Tralee, Maria Walsh has enjoyed a busy few days complete with ice-bucket challenges in the Tralee Town Park Fountain, a homecoming celebration in her home town of Shrule, Co Mayo and a welcome home event in Connemara where her mother Noreen spent most of her childhood.
Today she was a guest of the GAA President, Liam O’Neill at the All-Ireland Football Semi-Final between her home County Mayo and Kerry. She’s due to fly back to Philadelphia tonight to return to work as a studio manager.
Statement by Festival Chief Executive on Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh
Statement issued by The Rose of Tralee International Executive Chair Anthony O'Gara, as quoted in The Sun Newspaper article published today.
The Executive Chair of the Rose of Tralee International Festival, Anthony O'Gara, commented:
“We are delighted that Maria was chosen as the Rose of Tralee. She is a wonderful person, an attractive intelligent woman and a very worthy winner who happens to be gay. Her sexuality will no doubt create some interest, hopefully all positive. She wants to be celebrated as Maria Walsh in the complete sense of her person and hopefully everyone will respect that.”