Rose of Tralee contestant 'nearly burst into tears' after man dressed as priest invaded stage

Cavan Rose Lisa Reilly on stage as the man dressed as a priest storms the stage
Cavan Rose Lisa Reilly on stage as the man dressed as a priest storms the stage

The Cavan Rose Lisa Reilly has spoken out after Justice 4 Fathers protester Matt O'Connor jumped on stage during the 57th annual Rose of Tralee.

Reilly was in the middle of talking to host Daithí O Sé when O'Connor ran up the stairs waving a banner and urging the audience to pray for the "broken families of Ireland".

Reilly admitted the experience had been unnerving. "I was confused at first," she told the Irish Independent.

"At first I thought it was Daithi making a joke and he thought I was playing a joke on him. But then I was in a state of shock.

"I was all in a heap last night. It wasn't expected.

"I am quite a nervous person - I was quite worked up before I even got on the stage so it couldn't have happened to a worse rose.

"I am not going to lie, I was very close to bursting into tears but then Daithí gave me a squeeze and all the audience stood up so I kept going." 

Reilly said she didn't think it was the "time or place" for O'Connor to take a stance.

"I understand that he is passionate about his cause," she said.

"But there is a time and place and I have no connection with his cause and I didn’t think there was any need for it.

"But it is live TV and we just keep our heads up and keep going."

Reilly said the incident had not overshadowed or tainted her Rose of Tralee experience.

Meanwhile, O'Connor told Newstalk's Lunchtime that he does not regret his protest.

"I think it will be judged to be an effective protest, I think people are talking about the issue.

"I disagree with your summation that there is a lot of negative feedback.

"But there's a huge amount of positive support that we've had on social media - and via email.

"This will kick-start a very important debate, let's get talking about the fact that we have equal rights for everyone in Ireland apart from fathers. Why is that?"

Asked if he wished to apologise to Ms O'Reilly, he said: "Apology's the right word - obviously nobody wants to disrupt anybody's evening, but we have to put it in the context of what we campaign for (which is) a very, very serious issue."