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Shake up of Rose of Tralee allows married and trans women to take part in festival for the first time

Rose of Tralee host Dáithí O Sé in 2012 with 32 Irish and International Roses

Rose of Tralee host Dáithí O Sé in 2012 with 32 Irish and International Roses



Kirsty Blake Knox

The Rose of Tralee is to expand its qualifying criteria for contestants in a bid to make the festival more inclusive.

For the first time in its 62-year history, married women will be allowed to compete, and the age limit has been fractionally extended from 28 to 29. Under the rules a contestant cannot turn 30 before September 1, 2022.

Organisers have also clarified that anyone who identifies as female is welcome to participate.

In 2017, the festival was forced to explain that trans women were not barred from entering after reports emerged that a spokesperson allegedly said they would not consider trans applicants.

At the time CEO Anthony O’Gara told RTÉ: “It isn’t the case that transgender women are banned or barred – that would be completely silly.”

Speaking this week, Mr O’Gara said organisers now felt it was time to clarify that trans women are encouraged to take part, and that the festival welcomes diversity.

Throughout 2020 and 2021, the organisers contacted different Rose Centres around the world and asked for feedback on how the festival could move with the times and become more inclusive.

Mr O’Gara said organisers regularly review the Rose of Tralee and assess what aspects of it are working, and what needs to change.

Speaking about the new rules, host Dáithí Ó Sé said: “It’s great news and will be very welcome, I’d say.

“The Rose of Tralee is there for everyone and that’s the way it should be.”

Mr O’Gara also said in the coming years the Rose of Tralee will go back to community selection rather than a county selection. This means there can be a Listowel and a Dingle Rose, instead of just a Kerry Rose.

Mr O’Gara is hopeful that the festival, which has been on hiatus for two years as a result of the pandemic, will go ahead next summer.

He said the Rose selections have been pushed back to April and May as a result of continued Covid-19 restrictions.

The Rose of Tralee emerged from the nationwide An Tóstal festivals in the 1950s. In the early 1960s only women from Kerry were permitted to enter. However, in 1967 festival organisers allowed women from outside the Kingdom to throw on a sash.

The contest has continued to grow with women from all around the world heading to Tralee for the August event.

It is often dismissed as archaic but it has sparked pivotal cultural moments. In 2016, contestant Brianna Parkins broached the subject of the Eighth Amendment from the stage of The Dome. In 2014, the then newly crowned Rose, Maria Walsh, spoke openly about being gay – one year before the marriage equalit y referendum.

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