Rose of Tralee critics ‘faux intellectuals’ - festival head
Anthony O’Gara accuses detactors of peddling ‘flagrant verbal rubbish’
Philadelphia Rose Maria Walsh after winning the festival last month.
Rose of Tralee executive chairman Anthony O’Gara has accused critics of the festival of peddling “boorish nonsense”.
Mr O’Gara responded to recent criticisms of the festival by suggesting that those who criticise it “trot out flagrant verbal rubbish for the sake of it”.
He described critics of the festival as being “faux intellectuals who trip over each other to impress their peers” and added: “Please, get over the outdated ‘lovely girls’ joke. We have.”
In an open letter to newspaper editors Mr O’Gara took issue with much of the criticisms that surround the festival.
He wrote: “The Rose of Tralee is not all about Paddywhackery, colleens on parade, Stepford Wives tricked out as national stereotypes or flagrant misogyny masquerading as Irish culture.”
Mr O’Gara was particularly incensed over commentary surrounding the choice of Philadelphia Rose Maria Walsh, who is gay, as the Rose of Tralee, and suggestions that it dragged the festival into the 21st century.
“We don’t have a 1950s ethos - we do have a proud history and each year the Roses reflect women as they are today. Their ethos is ours,” he stated.
“We are not interested in stereotyping women. We celebrate exceptional women and accept them as the proud people they are, whatever that might be.”
In an interview with Radio Kerry last week following Ms Walsh’s success, Mr O’Gara said it was time that the festival answered back to its critics. He has now done so with the letter to newspaper editors.
He said the festival was not sensitive to critics, but is “sensitive to boorish nonsense from uninformed opinion writers”.
He described “misconceptions” about the Rose of Tralee International Festival as being “foisted on the unsuspecting public annually by some zealous, angry, if perhaps, misguided social commentators.”
Mr O’Gara described the Rose of Tralee as “one of the most important threads to connect Irish people throughout the world with home and that is a fact for over 55 years.”
Most of the judges , who pick the Rose of Tralee, were “born long after the break-up of the Beatles and when the Rolling Stones were past their best”.
They were looking for a “relevant, independent, modern woman to represent the Irish diaspora with pride and that is their only happy concern.”
The new Rose of Tralee Ms Walsh is due to appear on the Late Late Show tomorrow night. She has also defended the festival telling The Irish Times last week that her achievement in winning the Rose of Tralee confounded critics of the festival who described it as old-fashioned.
She explained: “I would ask those critics who have previously said the festival is old-fashioned if they had visited Tralee over the course of a festival weekend? This was my first time in Tralee and all I experienced was a modern, fun and craic-filled time,” she said.
“I know the 31 other Roses who shared this moment with me were and are very far from old-fashioned. These women are classy, intelligent and identify with the many young women in this country and across the diaspora.”