Rose of Tralee confirms married and trans women can enter festival

Festival wants to make sure it is ‘diverse and inclusive’, executive chairman says

The Rose of Tralee is to allow married women to compete in the festival and has confirmed that anyone who identifies as female can enter the competition, in an effort to be more inclusive in its criteria for contestants.

For the first time in the festival’s 62-year history, the age limit for contestants has also been slightly increased, from 28 to 29.

Under the new rules, a contestant cannot turn 30 before September 1st, 2022.

Organisers clarified that anyone who identifies as female is welcome to participate.

“We’re extending the age up to 29 now, we’re confirming that married women can enter and somebody who identifies as a woman would be very, very welcome to enter it,” Rose of Tralee executive chairman Anthony O’Gara told Radio Kerry.

Regarding trans women being able to enter the festival, Mr O’Gara said this was always the case, “but we haven’t stated it possibly strongly enough in the past, so we just want to confirm that”.

“We want to make sure we are diverse and inclusive. A lot of new things are happening,” he said.

Mr O’Gara said there wasn’t “any logical sense” to not having married women involved, it was “just part of tradition that single women became involved” in the past, but there “wasn’t any compelling argument” to continue restricting places to single women only.

The latest developments come after the festival had to clarify in 2017 that transgender women were not banned or barred from entering. Mr O'Gara, who was chief executive at the time, told RTÉ that such a ban would be "completely silly".

Although the festival has been described as archaic in the past, moments such as Maria Walsh speaking openly about being gay in 2014, and Brianna Parkins broaching the subject of the Eighth Amendment on stage in 2016, have brought it some praise.

The festival has been unable to go ahead in the last two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In 2022, the festival expects some international Roses to take part, as well as community Roses who can represent local areas.

RTÉ has now signed a new contract with the festival, which Mr O'Gara said may be held at the Munster Technological University instead of in the Dome marquee which is erected each year.

Applications were opened on Monday for contestants to enter the festival.