Rose of Tralee chief says there is place for politics on festival stage

‘If somebody has an opinion, they will express that opinion’

Sydney Rose Brianna Parkins: called for the repeal of the Eighth amendment to the Constitution on abortion.

Sydney Rose Brianna Parkins: called for the repeal of the Eighth amendment to the Constitution on abortion.

 

Rose of Tralee chief executive Anthony O’Gara has said he disagrees with the stance taken by the chair of the judging panel that there is no place for politics on the festival stage.

Mary Kennedy, the RTÉ presenter, said the live show was not the place to raise political issues. She was referring to the Sydney Rose Brianna Parkins (25) who called for the repeal of the Eighth amendment to the Constitution on abortion.

Ms Kennedy said after Monday night that Ms Parkins should not have used the live final to make her point.

“I don’t think the Rose of Tralee is a necessarily political platform, although for those two reasons (on Monday) night it did become political,” she said.

“The Sydney Rose is a very deeply committed to women’s rights and women’s concerns. She’s done some wonderful, wonderful work in Australia. This was a point that she wanted to make but I don’t think it’s the place to do it.”

Mr O’Gara said it would be a “bit silly” to not expect that some of the women involved would have opinions “controversial or otherwise”.

He professed to being “delighted” that the Sydney Rose had spoken out as she did. “Of course there will be reaction and let that flow. People have a bit of fun about the Rose of Tralee calling it the ‘lovely girls’ competition. It goes round and round a bit lazily like that every year,” he said.

“If somebody has an opinion, they will express that opinion. If you bring 65 women from across the world together, I presume a significant number of them would share that opinion.”

Abortion issue

The Pro-Life Campaign has criticised the inclusion of the issue of abortion in the list of issues to be discussed by the Roses in behind-the-scenes discussions watched by the judges.

Campaign spokeswoman Cora Sherlock said the Rose of Tralee was not the place to discuss such issues. “It’s the Rose of Tralee not Prime Time.”

Mr O’Gara said group discussions have long been part of the festival and by their nature they are controversial. “I think the judges are quite right to ask questions that are topical and controversial,” he said.

“As a festival we are apolitical, but we are dealing with 65 young women, all of whom have controversial views.

“We celebrate the wider Irish family across the world. Sometimes in our views, we are very narrow in what being Irish is. Very often an American or an Australian girl might be pilloried because of her accent.

“We have to wake up and realise there are very strong Irish people around the people whether they are first or fourth generation. They have a different way of looking at the world and they are just as much Irish as anyone else.”