Rose of Tralee: Contestant stuns audience with news parents were heroin addicts

Carlow Rose Shauna Ray Lacey (24) says she was not ‘given the best hand of cards’ in life

In the run-up to the Rose of Tralee, Carlow Rose Shauna Ray Lacey (24) was noteworthy as the first mother to make it to the live final.

Ms Lacey, from Carlow town, raised a laugh when she exclaimed that it was “impossible” for her to be pregnant with her child Emmy when she was 21, but then stunned the audience with a further revelation.

She sequed into the revelation that her late father, Francis, and mother, Angela Ray, were heroin addicts. She said she had not been "given the best hand of cards" when growing up.

Her parents were functioning heroin addicts, she said. Her father – who died from heart disease – went to work every day.


“I was living with active addiction in my life,” she said. “In every second home there is someone living with addiction.”

After appearing on stage, mother and daughter gave an interview to the media in which Angela explained she had gone from alcohol addiction to heroin addiction at the age of 31.

“I was lost at that point in my head. I found it hard with the daily thing and it is so easy to access it. It took away any pain and any feeling,” she said.

Angela said heroin addiction was not just an inner-city Dublin problem.

“I had to keep it secret because Carlow is a small town.”

Angela, who has been clean for four years, said she was proud that her daughter had gone public on dealing with addiction in the family in front of a live audience.

“You are not who your parents are,” Angela said. “The freedom to be able to speak your mind and not to feel judged at all I think it is the most powerful thing. I’m absolutely speechless. I don’t care who judges me any more. The freedom of that is amazing.”

32 Roses

Shauna was one of 17 Roses who appeared last night, with 15 to follow tonight. They were chosen to participate from the 57 Roses who made the trip to Tralee this year.

The three-year experiment of bringing all the Roses to Tralee, before choosing who makes the live final, seemed like a good idea when it was introduced three years ago. The contestants would get to travel around Ireland, make friendships and participate in the many events around the festival – except for the live final. However, missing out on the live final feels like a crushing blow for many of those who do not make it.

The Roses are often built up in their local newspapers and radio stations, and their families and friends are excited. The let-down at not making the cut can be extreme.

Failed experiment

Rose of Tralee chief executive Anthony O’Gara has admitted that many of the women who do not make the live final feel rejected, no matter how many times people try to reassure them it is not the case.

“The experiment was well-intentioned, but it hasn’t worked. She [the Rose] feels that if she doesn’t get through, she is letting down her friends and family and locality. It isn’t the case but that’s how she feels.”

The disappointment is particularly intense for those who come from overseas. Mr O’Gara stressed that the decision was not a financial one.

“Financially we will be worse off, but, in the long term, this will ruin the whole festival,” he said.

Instead, most of the Rose centres with the exception of Kerry, Dublin and Cork will send a Rose to the festival every second year, and some of the bigger international centres will send Roses two years out of three.

As ever, Tralee is lit up like Christmas. The pubs are full and the hotels booked out.

Mr O'Gara maintains that many businesses in the town are happy to benefit from the Rose Festival every year, but less inclined to contribute to ensure that it is financially viable. The street illuminations and staged events cost €350,000, to which local businesses contribute €40,000. He suggests that contribution should be doubled.

“There are a lot of people who are good to us and there are a lot of people who aren’t,” he said. “Some people are very decent, most people are sound, but there is a lot of people who will hang on the coat-tails and let it happen.”

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times