Rose of Tralee cancelled for second year due to pandemic

Cancellation due to restrictions on gatherings and international travel comes as ‘huge blow’ to tourism

Dáithí Ó Sé with the Rose of Tralee contestants in 2017. File photograph: Andres Poveda

Dáithí Ó Sé with the Rose of Tralee contestants in 2017. File photograph: Andres Poveda


The Rose of Tralee International Festival has been cancelled for a second year.

The chairman of Kerry County Council, Patrick Connor Scarteen, said the need to cancel the festival again this year due to the restrictions on gatherings and difficulties of international travel was “a huge blow” to the tourist-dependent county.

Long-time presenter Dáithí Ó Sé said he was “gutted”, particularly for the town of Tralee.

In a statement festival chief executive Anthony O’Gara said his team had been working for 15 months to put a festival in place for 2021. Last year was the first time it had to be postponed since the festival was founded more than 60 years ago.

The festival operates all year round in Irish communities worldwide and will continue to do so in preparation for August 2022, Mr O’Gara said.

“Since last year’s postponement, we have been working on how best we could safely deliver some, or all, of the 2021 Rose of Tralee International Festival events at home and abroad.

“Sadly, the time frame envisaged to safely steer our communities out of this pandemic, and our responsibility to positively support those efforts, mean that we will not be able to have a festival again this year, which is immensely disappointing for all of us involved,” Mr O’Gara said.

Mr Ó Sé said every option had been tried by the festival committee.

Grand scale

“It’s just the fact the festival is so big. You’re talking thousands of people out on the street for the parade. You are talking about 2,500 people inside in the Dome. It’s just the grand scale of it that means it can’t happen,” Mr Ó Sé told the lunchtime Talk About programme on Radio Kerry.

The presenter said he was was gutted for the roses and the rose centres.

“But to be honest I am really gutted for the town of Tralee and the people of Tralee and the businesses of Tralee. It’s heartbreaking for them.

“As they say at home ‘tis a pure balls. That’s what it is,” Mr Ó Sé said.

Figures vary but the festival is estimated to be worth between €11 and €20 million to the economy of Kerry each August. The televised interviews over two nights regularly attract record viewing figures for RTÉ.

The council in Kerry is a major sponsor of the festival, along with RTÉ and Tipperary Crystal.

Mayor of Tralee, Terry O’Brien, said the local authority would seek to hold smaller events over the summer.

“While these will not be a substitute for the Rose of Tralee, we hope we can make the most of the summer ahead to enjoy smaller family-type events as the pandemic situation improves,” Mr O’Brien said.