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rose of tralee

Things are looking rosy for Kirsten Mate Maher this morning, in light of her win last night. 

The 21-year-old student and part-time model was crowned the 2018 Rose of Tralee.

Representing Waterford, Kirsten was a hot favourite to win the contest.

The student is the third mixed-race woman to secure the title.

Before her, was 1998 winner Luzveminda O’Sullivan and Clare Kambamettu, who took the crown in 2010.

Since the humble beginnings of the show in 1959, Kirsten is the first African-Irish woman to win the competition.

The 21-year-old couldn't believe she had won as her parents joined her on stage, she confessed she was "speechless."

The Rose works in a boutique in Tramore, Co Waterford, but earlier this week she discovered that Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) was waiting for her.

Kirsten had been accepted to study Multimedia and Application Development at the university.

However, in light of her win, WIT might have to wait another year.

“I certainly did not think it would be me. I haven’t clicked any buttons yet. I might have to click on the defer button,” she explained.

“I haven’t thought this far ahead. I really haven’t. I don’t know what I am going to do yet. I’ll have to make a few plans.”

Kirsten parents met in Waterford when her father, Kwalo Mate, an army officer from Zambia, was training in the Curragh.

He bumped into his future wife while enjoying some down time in Waterford.

Despite her father returning to Zambia before her birth and not reuniting with Kirsten until she was almost two, the pair have a special bond.

“I still have the teddy bear he gave me,” she said.

The 21-year-old takes pride in her Zambian heritage but has expressed her desire for the press to not focus on the colour of her skin.

“It is something you touch off but you don’t dwell on too much. There is a lot more to me than the colour of my skin and my hair,” she said.

The student is planning to keep in touch with the culture and her Zambian relatives were even tuning into the Irish programme.

“My Dad was over in Zambia last month and he was filling them in what the Rose of Tralee is. I don’t know what they are going to think when they find out about this. They are probably all in bed now.

“I like to stay in touch with my Zambian culture. I can’t wait to go back there. It’s the first thing on the list this year.”

Congratulations to Kirsten! And well done to all the 57 roses.



It’s been 58 years since Alice O’Sullivan was crowned the first ever Rose of Tralee.

The year was 1959, Éamon de Valera was President of Ireland, and Seán Lemass has begun his term as Taoiseach.

The first 12 female recruits were selected to join An Garda Siochana and Cliff Richard was No. 1 in the charts with Living Doll.

Representing Dublin at the inaugural event in Co Kerry, Alice could hardly have known that in the six decades that were to follow, hundreds of young women would continue to compete for the title.

But what is it about the event – often derided as outdated and sexist – which continues to appeal to young women around the world? We sat down with this year’s New Zealand Rose, Niamh O’Sullivan, in order to find out more.

Hailing from Co Cork, but currently living in New Zealand, Niamh admits that she understands some of the criticism levelled at this year’s live shows, but is at pains to highlight the event’s many merits.

“I understand this year there was some criticism of the live shows focussing too heavily on the woman's partners and had quite a "romantic angle",” she says.

“It is true there was a lot of time given over to the girls' partners, however the show is a family show and it aims to try to showcase the girls' personalities while also providing entertainment to all those watching.”

“Getting the balance between important social awareness topics and lighter, fun topics can be hard, and I'm sure it's something that RTÉ and the Rose of Tralee spend a lot of time discussing each year.”

“It's hard to please everyone and I've been talking to a lot of people who had completely differing opinions on what makes a good Rose of Tralee show so I feel there will always be criticism while there are differing opinions of the audience watching. “

Reflecting on the common narrative which suggests that the annual event is an outdated, anti-feminist spectacle, Niamh insists that one needs only cast a casual eye over its list of participants to see the inaccuracy of such a dialogue.

“[It] celebrates women – fantastic, intelligent and witty women who are proud of their Irish heritage and who get a chance to make their families' history of immigration known, and acknowledge the hardships that must have accompanied leaving Ireland,” Niamh explains.

“The women I met are shaping their communities, both in Ireland and all over the world. The work they do, in their careers and through voluntary work is highly inspiring and commendable and I'm very proud that Ireland has a festival that showcases these type of women for the younger generation to look up to.”

“In a world where there are a lot of questionable role models in the media shaping our young female minds, I feel there is a need for the Rose of Tralee and the type of female role models it portrays. If we continue to celebrate 64 new inspiring young woman each year, then I feel the festival will always hold an important position, and will remain relevant."

As viewers, our perception of the Rose of Tralee is born of the two nights of televised footage beamed out to us from the Kingdom, but in reality, what we are shown as viewers is only a snapshot of the womens' experience of the event.

"I won't lie and say I was prepared for the emotional rollercoaster that it turned out to be!" Niamh said of the week-long festival.

"So many businesses and people want to be part of the festival and host the Roses that we have a hectic schedule that leaves your head spinning! We are told of long days and short sleeps and you can try and prepare your mind for that but you can't ever prepare your body. It took its toll on both body and mind from Day Three for me."


Look out for this sign and you're at the entrance to Family Town! Starting today, Friday midday

A post shared by Rose Of Tralee (@roseoftraleefestival) on

And while sore throats and sore feet are a common complaint, Niamh also struggled with practicalities of living with Type 1 Diabetes.

"There were definitely some extra struggles I knew I would face putting myself forward for the Rose of Tralee," she said of her decision.

"I manage my  blood sugars using an insulin pump which is a small device the size of an old block Nokia that I wear 24 hours a day. The block is attached to a wire which is inserted into my skin," the 27-year-old paediatric dietician explains.

In addition to managing her blood sugar levels throughout the day, Niamh relied on the event's chaperones to tend to the equipment she needs on account of the condition.

"This was the hardest part of the process for me – having to hand over control and rely on other people to help manage my Diabetes," Niamh admits.

"I have had Type 1 for six years and have always managed it completely independently. This was the first time I had to hand over equipment or back ups and I felt so worried relinquishing control and had a couple of melt downs feeling like I was burdening everyone."

"I felt I was drawing unwanted attention on myself and never wanted my Diabetes to be seen as a burden and I felt it was. I entered the Rose of Tralee to raise awareness of certainly the struggles but also the triumphs that come alongside having Diabetes."

"I wanted to show it does not limit what you can achieve in life and if anything for me it has shaped the type of person I am and made me want to strive for more in my life. "

And it appears Niamh's mission did not go unnoticed, as she recalls her stand-out moment from the event which took place during the Saturday parade.

"The ultimate highlight for me was halfway through the parade when the other two Roses on my float started wildly hitting me to look over to the opposite side of the crowd," Niamh recalls.

"There was screaming and roaring coming from a mother pointing at her teenage daughter who was waving her insulin pump around. She said her name is Caitlyn, she has Type 1 Diabetes and had been following my journey."

"I'm beyond proud to be able to represent the Type 1 community and be a role model to all the Caitlin's out there," Niamh adds.

2017 saw Jennier Byrne from Co Offaly take this year's title – a triumph felt passionately by Niamh, who shared a room with the junior doctor throughout their time as Roses.

"She was first and foremost my saving grace and best friend in the competition. We were perfectly paired in humour, laid back attitude and even our outfit picks were almost identical on several occasions! " Niamh laughs.

"Jennifer was my rock and no more deserving girl could have won the title," she adds.

And would she do it all over again?

"In a literal heartbeat. It was the toughest but most enjoyable week of my life – a whirlwind of dual exhaustion and exhilaration, laughter and tears but above all memories I'll keep with me over in New Zealand and the best closure on Ireland I could ever ask for. "


This year's Rose of Tralee was definitely one of the more talked about in recent years.

From the Sydney Rose's impassioned speech to the Fathers4Justice on-stage protest, Twitter was awash with Rose of Tralee mentions, and viewers tuned in in their millions to witness the crowning of the contest's 58th Rose.

And while it seems that this year's contest helped change people's stance of the long-running pageant, a recent Facebook post may do much to reverse public opinion.

Taking to social media, Down Rose, Fainche McCormack, who didn't make it to the live final, shone a light on aspects of the process to which viewers weren't privy, and it doesn't make for easy reading.

In a now deleted post, Fainche wrote: "The Rose of Tralee was honestly the most amazing experience of my life, until Sunday morning."

"I, and my fellow rose sisters, did not sign up for a cheap reality television show in which our emotions would be manipulated for entertainment purposes, nor did we sign up to be treated like animals in the circus and held in a room against our will."

"Cameras intrusively followed us all week and asked inappropriate probing questions; asking one girl what colour underwear she was wearing right before she went on stage, what's acceptable about that?" Fainche asked.

"I could go on for days about the many ways we were manipulated, bullied and mistreated; However, up until a certain point, the Rose of Tralee was the experience of a lifetime, every part of a little girl's dream," she continued.

Calling the organisers out on their disregard for contestants Fainche added: "It's just a shame that television viewing numbers became more important that the truly amazing girls that got hurt and that now have to deal with the emotional trauma of the whole, quite frankly disgusting and cruel, ordeal."

"None of us signed up for a cheat reality television show and now unfortunately the Rose of Tralee is an experience I will never forget, for all the wrong reasons." she finished in a post which has sent social media into overdrive this morning,

Acknowledging Fainche's concerns, CEO of the festival, Anthony O'Gara, suggested that her position in the contest may have acted as a catalyst for the post.

"We been running regional finals for the past 10 years and we always get strong reactions from the Roses that don't get through. We understand people are disappointed and this year wasn't any different."

And yet despite this, Mr. O'Gara accepted that issues had been raised about Sunday morning's filming, saying: "The manner in which the extra TV show, The Road to the Dome, was finished was insensitive and we didn't anticipate that."

"We wouldn't like to see it repeated and we apologised to the Roses and they accepted that." he insisted.


The Down Rose has spoken out about being mistreated during her time on The Rose of Tralee.

Fainche McCormack took to Facebook to write a lengthy post about how the contestants were "bullied" and "treated like animals in the circus," during the famed competition.

"The Rose of Tralee was honestly the most amazing experience of my life, until Sunday morning," she wrote.

"I, and my fellow rose sisters, did not sign up for a cheap reality television show in which our emotions would be manipulated for entertainment purposes, nor did we sign up to be treated like animals in the circus and held in a room against our will.

"Cameras intrusively followed us all week and asked inappropriate probing questions; asking one girl what colour underwear she was wearing right before she went on stage, what's acceptable about that?" Fainche argued.

She finished by saying while it was a good experience, the producers should have concentrated on the girls rather than concentrating on viewing numbers.

"I could go on for days about the many ways we were manipulated, bullied and mistreated; However, up until a certain point, the Rose of Tralee was the experience of a lifetime, every part of a little girl's dream.

"It's just a shame that television viewing numbers became more important than the truly amazing girls that got hurt and that now have to deal with the emotional trauma of the whole, quite frankly disgusting and cruel ordeal.

"None of us signed up for a cheap reality television show and now unfortunately the Rose of Tralee is an experience I will never forget, for all the wrong reasons," she ended.


Like the Irish weather, the guy who fell over on the ice and the kid who played What’s Snots on The Den, the Rose of Tralee is something we, as a nation, are allowed to make fun of.

Hell, it’s practically our duty.

Yet despite our supposed disdain for the long-running contest, a staggering 1.7 million of us chose to tune and get our fix of the action this week.

And an astounding three-quarters of a million witnessed the moment a stunned Chicago Rose, Maggie McEldowney, took her place in Rose of Tralee history after being crowned winner at the 58th annual event.

Oh, and it wasn’t just the people at home in Ireland keen to hear the Sydney Rose’s views on the 8th Amendment or the German Rose's take on Lil Wayne either.

With 115,000 total worldwide streams, the popularity of the contest is ever-increasing.

Acknowledging the changing tide, host Dáithí Ó Sé said: It’s been another fantastic year at the Rose of Tralee. This is my seventh year hosting and each year it just seems to get better.”

Since Monday there have been over 55,400 Twitter mentions – a figure which undoubtedly helped make this year’s contest was one of the highest rating programmes of 2016.

Commenting on the show’s success, RTÉ’s executive producer, Brian Páircéir, said: “With 1.7million viewers tuning in over the two days to watch the Rose of Tralee it just proves once again just how popular it is with people watching at home.”

Make no mistake – you'll be watching again next year, and you know it.


Whether you watched the Rose of Tralee or not, chances are you have, by this stage, heard that Sydney Rose, Brianna Parkins, used her time on stage to call for a repeal of the 8th Amendment.

And while thousands upon thousands praised Brianna for her contribution to the ongoing discussion on womens' reproductive rights in Ireland, RTÉ presenter, Mary Kennedy, was, according to The Independent, a little less forthcoming in her praise.

While acknowledging that Brianna had a right to voice her opinion, the popular presenter, who also happens to be chair of the Rose of Tralee judging panel, argues that the Kerry-based contest may not have been the right time to do so.

"This was a point that she (Brianna) wanted to make but I don't think it's the place to do it," Mary said following Brianna's remarks on Monday night.

And while many Twitter users applauded Briana for using her time so productively, Mary argued: "I don't think the Rose of Tralee is necessarily a political platform."

Echoing Mary's stance on the issue, Pro-Life Campaign spokesperson Cora Sherlock  argued that the long-running pageant was not the place to raise discussion.

"You can't dip your toe into the abortion debate. This is the Rose of Tralee, not Prime Time," she said.

The Chicago Rose was crowned the winner of this year's Rose of Tralee last night, but for many Brianna will always wear the crown.


The Cavan Rose got some land when her segment during the first night of the Rose of Tralee pageant was interrupted by a fairly irate-looking priest intent on stealing her spotlight last night.

Clutching a handwritten sign, Matt O'Connor – not a priest but the founder of Fathers4Justice – tried to raise awareness of his organisation, before being escorted off-stage in front of a stunned audience.

Defending his decision to interrupt both the televised event and Lisa Reilly's interview with Dáithí O' Shea, Matt told Radio Kerry: "Lets put it in context – it's a beauty pageant, not somebody's holy communion."

"I was told – and I hope it's the case – that she carried on, the show carried on…and fair play to her," Matt said. "It's disconcerting, but let's remember this was a peaceful protest, it was nothing more dramatic than that, a couple of seconds on television, let's put it in that context."

Revealing that last night's protest only signalled the beginning, Matt continued: "The contest itself – the Rose of Tralee – has widely been panned as being a sexist and outdated beauty pageant; but it's an issue that we thought needed to be aired and it's the first of many protests we're going to be staging across Ireland."

Standing by his approach, Matt added: "That right to protest is actually enshrined in law. We have a right to peaceful protest, this was a peaceful protest."

And while it may be considered peaceful, Matt's decision left the Cavan Rose feeling more than a little rattled.

Commenting on the moment which – along with the Sydney Rose's impassioned speech – has been doing the rounds on Twitter today, Lisa said: "I was very, very close to bursting out crying."

"Dáithí gave me a bit of a squeeze," she continued. "Then everyone started to stand up for an ovation, especially the escorts and the Roses."

"It was the first time in eight years a Cavan Rose was in the Rose of Tralee so I wasn't going to let people down," she insisted.


It's that time of year again, ladies.

Roses line up, mammies cry, escorts look awkward… and Twitter goes into total meltdown.

Taking to the website in their droves since last night, members of the public shared their thoughts on the long-running pageant, and it is, unsurprisingly, a mixed bag.

From tongue-in-cheek remarks on the appearance of an angry priest to heartfelt tributes to this year's Sydney Rose, when it came to this year's Kerry-based event, we definitely didn't turn a blind eye.

And here are just some of your thoughts.

1. She has a point.

2. Yep, sounds about right.

3. "They all have lovely bottoms"

4. This guy.

5. This gal.

6. Preach.

7. Too true.

8. "She's worth it"

9. And then there was this…



The launch of 2016's Rose of Tralee took place yesterday, with 65 ladies all lined out in hopes of grabbing the title.

But when the 65 women will be whittled down to 32, they will be banned from doing one very specific party piece.


The first of the Roses to arrive at The Rose Hotel #RoseofTralee

A photo posted by Rose Of Tralee (@roseoftraleefestival) on

Now, it's safe to say that some Roses come out with pretty weird talents, but this one is actually quite normal.

Traditional poetry is being banned because it's too old-fashioned.

Spokesman for the festival John Drummery said: "The real reason is because in the olden days, poem were seen as a form of entertainment before all the modern entertainment we now see. They had their place in time.

“The Rose of Tralee is constantly evolving to stay modern and relevant. We found there weren’t as many people who wanted to do poems anyway. We just made a decision, in consultation with RTE of course," he told the Irish Sun.


Slainte. Roses get the champagne treatment at The Rose Hotel

A photo posted by Rose Of Tralee (@roseoftraleefestival) on

“That was it really. We’ve nothing against poetry or the creative skills of our Roses who like to write their own poems.

“The show will be a little more fast moving without the poems as well. It’s a decision we made and we might add something to it next year instead," John added.


Having been single for the past two years, former Rose Of Tralee, Maria Walsh is officially off the market.

The TV presenter has confirmed she is in a happy relationship with Emmy-nominated director, Shauna Keogh.

Maria and Shauna were first linked when they appeared on the red-carpet of the Gossies together back in February, but both denied the romance.  

This week, Maria, 29, told EVOKE.ie  that she has been in a relationship with Shauna "for several weeks". 

The couple jetted off to the north of Spain this month, to spend some quality time together. 

Maria, who was the first ever openly-gay Rose of Tralee, even posted an adorable couple-selfie on Instagram of their trip, and the pair certainly look loved up!


Gracias Novia y Madrid.

A photo posted by Maria Walsh (@honorawalsh) on

Maria is currently setting up an events agency  with a friend, and is an Irish ambassador for Plan International.

Also very busy at work is Shauna, who recently filmed a documentary for RTE about what it is like to grow up gay in Ireland.

Power couple alert! 



Maria Walsh has faced an onslaught of rumours that she is dating Irish TV producer Shauna Keogh after the pair attended the Gossies award show last week. 

However, the producer has now revealed that the pair are in fact simply very good friends. 

"We've had so many questions asking if Maria and I are together," Shauna told The Irish Sun.

"We know people are interested and these questions aren't going to go away. We knew this was going to come up and people are going to come to the wrong decision, but myself and Maria are just friends and work colleagues.

"Myself and Maria are definitely going to be hanging out at more events together. We're both gay and if the two of us turning up on a red carpet together makes it easier for same sex couples, that's great."

The pair have insisted that they are simply working together on a some upcoming TV projects since the producer has returned from the States where she was working on a number of shows. 

However, Shauna had noting but good things to say about the 2014 Rose. 

"I think Maria is an amazing, brilliant role model for young people in the LGBT community and she has allowed more young people to come out about their sexuality."



The Rose of Tralee may be a festival steeped in longstanding tradition, but it seems the iconic Irish pageant is receiving a bit of a facelift this year. 

Dedicated viewers will be pleased the hear that the traditionally five day festival has been expanded into a seven day festival. 

Therefore, there will be three televised nights instead of two.


Traditionally, the selection process to whittle down potential Roses from the 68 selection centres to the final 32 took place in Portlaoise in May. 

However, in this new extended format, RTÉ will broadcast a documentary featuring all 68 selected roses and reveal who has made it to the live final on the Sunday before the usual televised shows.

This means that all 68 roses will travel to Tralee in August and the documentary will chart their journey to the festival. 

Speaking on the Nicky Byrne Show today, Dáithí Ó Sé commented on the popularity of the festival despite always getting slagged off. 

"People have been knocking it for a long time but now everybody’s watching it."

"The social media part of it is unbelievable, we had two people in charge of social media last year for the first time ever,” he explained."

“They had Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, the whole thing and it was absolutely unbelievable.

Meanwhile reigning rose, Elysha Brennan has been doing her duty travelling the length and breadth of the country encouraging women to take part. 

"It is a testament to how big and successful the festival is that RTÉ is putting on an extra night,” said the winning Meath Rose. 

"What other show in Ireland gets three nights on RTÉ?"

The first televised night of the festival is due to air on Sunday 21 August.