Rose of Tralee takes ‘neutral ground’ on abortion debate

Maggie McEldowney would not comment on remarks made by Sydney Rose to repeal 8th amendment

Maggie McEldowney would not comment on remarks made by Sydney Rose to repeal 8th amendment. Video: Ronan McGreevy


The new Rose of Tralee Maggie McEldowney has said it is not her place to speak on the issue of abortion.

The Chicago Rose would not be drawn on comments made by the Sydney Rose Brianna Perkins (27) who called on stage for the eighth amendment to be repealed.

Speaking on Wednesday morning after being selected as the 2016 Rose of Tralee, she said: “No offence to the Sydney Rose, but at this point I’m just trying to focus on what’s ahead and all the wonderful things we’ll be doing this year.

“As a representative of the festival I’d like to take the neutral ground on it.”

It was third time lucky for Ms McEldowney who entered the Chicago Rose competition twice before being selected to represent her centre this year.

She describes her family background as typically South Side Irish. Her paternal grandparents are both from Draperstown, Co Derry. Her mother’s name is Rose and her middle name is Rose.

Her boyfriend Jim Fitzgibbon works for the Chicago Fire Service and was unable to make it Tralee.

Ms McEldowney works as an administrator in the Marist High School, a prominent Catholic school in Chicago.

“ I think Catholic education really moulded me into who I am today,” she said.

“I’m very passionate about raising awareness for Catholic education, especially at Marist High School. Being an alma mater I can really relate to the students I’m raising money for.

“It’s a career but it’s also a joy to be there every day. It’s not a job when you go in and you love it. I work with colleagues who really teach me. They’re brilliant at what they do and I’m very lucky to be where I am today.”

Ms McEldowney said she wants to change public perception that the festival is a beauty pageant.

“I would love to alter the image, just like the Roses before me have done, because it’s so much more than the glitz and the glam,” she said.

“Which is a wonderful part of it, it’s a beautiful aspect of the festival as well, but there’s so much more that goes into it so I look forward to creating awareness for that.”

She said that becoming the Rose of Tralee is a dream come true. “Never in a million years did I think I’d be Rose of Tralee.”

Ms McEldowney said she heard about the Rose of Tralee through an elderly family friend. “Rose O’Neill who is currently 100, who is living in the house that my Grandma grew up in, she thought I’d be a great advocate for Chicago, so I started researching about four or five years ago.

“I fell in love with the entire idea of the festival, everything it promotes and the mission of the festival, it’s just such a wonderful stance. I’ve been a part of the Chicago centre since and now it’s my pleasure to say I represent the international Rose of Tralee.”