FESTIVAL: Newly crowned Rose of Tralee rejects criticism that festival is outdated

New York’s Róisín Wiley says event is about celebrating women and Irish culture

“The Rose of Tralee festival is about celebrating women and Irish culture and what makes us beautiful and different. There’s nothing outdated with doing that,” Ms Wiley said.

The 27-year-old New York Rose was speaking to reporters on Wednesday morning in the Rose Garden in Tralee’s Town Park following her triumph at the conclusion of the festival.

“I’ve never felt more beautiful and strong in myself and I think the 31 other women would say the same thing. It’s not because of the way we look or the way we dress, it’s because of the support that we’ve given one another. Nothing to me [about] that is outdated,” she added.

Ms Wiley, a vice-president of sales at a New York City marketing firm, also said the festival and its participants were a true representation of modern Irish women.

“When you look at the 31 other girls and everything we’ve brought to the table, and the experiences that we’ve brought, I think there’s such beauty in the different things that we’ve each been bringing to this festival,” she said.

Ms Wiley described Tuesday evening’s events as a “whirlwind” and the festival as a whole as “life changing”.

She said she was unsure of the particulars of her year ahead but, nonetheless, was excited for it.

Ms Wiley’s parents, both natives of Co Limerick, were in disbelief at the outcome of the festival, she said. “We look at each other and we’re shaking our heads like we can’t believe it, that this is about to happen, and this next year is coming in advance of us.

“It’s a big thing for my family, not just for me, and we’re all just so excited,” she said.

She also spoke of the support offered to her by other Roses on Wednesday morning. “What they keep saying to me is that they’re with me on this journey. I think that’s been the most comforting thing I could hear.”

Paddy Osborne and Andrew Griffin were watching on as Ms Wiley took instruction from photographers in the Rose Garden on Wednesday morning.

“We’re the two gardeners here in the park so our whole year is for that hour that she’s in the garden, really. It keeps us busy. It keeps us out of trouble,” Mr Griffin, from Listowel, said. Both men tend to some 5,000 roses in the park year round.

Mr Osborne, from Cabra, Dublin, but living in Killarney, said that the festival was a positive thing for the locality. “The whole town, for the whole year, revolves around it.”

Michael Fox O’Connor (75) and his 13-month-old golden retriever Kerry – named for the Kingdom’s 2022 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship victory – were walking through the park on Wednesday morning.

“[It’s great] to come down, mix with people, meet people, speak to people and just share different cultures. I think the Rose of Tralee is there to stay,” he said.

Fiachra Gallagher

Fiachra Gallagher

Fiachra Gallagher is an Irish Times journalist

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