New Rose of Tralee : ‘Lovely girls contest’ comments are unfair

Jennifer Byrne defends competition saying fellow Roses are very modern women

Jennifer Byrne, the newly crowned 2017 Rose of Tralee, speaks to the media as she reflects on her victory. Video: Sarah Burns/RTÉ

 

The newly crowned Rose of Tralee Jennifer Byrne has said “there’s nothing outdated” about the competition as she began her first day in the role.

The 24-year-old from Clonaderig, Co Offaly, who was crowned Rose of Tralee on Tuesday night, works as a junior doctor in the accident and emergency department of University Hospital Galway.

Asked by reporters about the event’s portrayal as a “lovely girls contest” in some quarters, Ms Byrne replied: “If they’re saying that then they don’t actually know what it’s like.

“It’s a group of young people together celebrating and having the craic, celebrating Irish culture and Irish heritage and there’s nothing outdated about that. All of the Roses are very modern women.”

Good qualities

Speaking in the Rose Garden in Tralee, Ms Byrne said she believed she was chosen out of the 32 hopefuls as she has “good qualities” that impressed the judges.

“They had a very tough job; you know all the other Roses are fantastic as well. I’m absolutely honoured to be chosen.

“But I suppose it’s probably I’m from a very rural area in Offaly, I’m kind of a typical young Irish girl and I’ve loved Irish dancing and Gaelic football.”

Ms Byrne, who hadn’t been a favourite with the bookmakers in the run-up to the televised shows, is the first Offaly Rose to claim the crown.

She has represented Ireland in soccer at U17 and U19 level and in the World University Games while previously volunteered at a hospital in Zambia and for Barretstown children’s charity. She is yet to decide how she will juggle working in the hospital with her Rose duties.

“I actually haven’t even thought about it for a second, I’m just living in the moment and enjoying every second of it. I’ll just discuss it with my family and have a think about it, let it all sink in and decide then.”

Ms Byrne, who studied medicine at NUI Galway, said she has a particular interest in women’s health along with promoting young women’s participation in sport.

Last year’s Rose of Tralee Maggie McEldowney from Chicago handed over the tiara and sash to the visibly shocked Offaly Rose at the finale in the Dome in Tralee.

Peak audience

The Tuesday night show drew a peak audience of 720,800 viewers, meaning that 66 per cent of people watching television at the time tuned in to find out the winner. Over 1.5million tuned in to watch the programme over the two nights.

RTÉ presenter Daithí Ó Sé, who hosted the Rose of Tralee for the eighth year in a row, said the shows were “fast paced” and “a lot of fun from start to finish”.

“The Roses were fantastic and made my two nights of hosting the Rose of Tralee very easy,” he said. “I’m delighted for Jennifer – she’s an all rounder, great fun and her energetic personality and caring nature really shone through during the week and also on stage. She will be a wonderful ambassador for the Rose of Tralee.”

Next year’s Rose of Tralee International Festival will take place from August 15th- 21st and online Rose applications are now being accepted at www.roseoftralee.ie.

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