It was a case of third time lucky for the newly crowned Rose of Tralee Maggie McEldowney, and she wasn’t going to let anything derail her moment in the sun.
Admitting that this was her third time entering the competition, she deftly handled questions about the views of the Sydney Rose, who said she hoped there would be a referendum on the Eighth Amendment, by saying her Catholic education has moulded her into who she is and that she has no view on the comments.
“Education and Catholic faith [are very dear to me]. I think Catholic education really moulded me into who I am today and I’m very passionate about raising awareness for Catholic education,” she told the Irish Examiner yesterday.
Ms McEldowney, 27, was then asked about the comments from Sydney Rose, Brianna Parkins, on Monday night.
Ms Parkins, a journalist with ABC news in Australia, told Dáithí Ó Sé that she hoped there would be a referendum held on the Eighth Amendment, to give women a say in their own reproductive rights.
Ms McEldowney was asked if she herself had any views on the comment.
“Honestly at this point I don’t. No offence to Sydney or anything like that.
“At this point I’m just trying to focus on what I have ahead and things that we will be doing this year,” she said.
The new Rose of Tralee works as a director of development at a Catholic high school in the south side of Chicago. She said she is passionate about raising money for families who could not otherwise afford Catholic education.
“I’m very passionate about it, it’s a career but it’s also a joy to be there every day.
“It’s not a job when you go in there and you love it. I’m very lucky to be where I’m at today.”
Her family came from Co Derry and her boyfriend’s (Jim Fitzgibbon) family are from Co Limerick.
Jim sent her a video message that was played live on air, while Ms McEldowney was on stage. They have been together for 18 months.
The 2016 International Rose of Tralee had entered the competition twice previously.
“I’m a perfect example of ‘if at first you don’t succeed try, try again’. I don’t think I really knew what I was getting into the first time.
“The more time I spent with my centre and the more I could learn about the festival and everything you’re able to do with it, I just dove head first into it.
“It called to me. The second time didn’t work out but we’ve such an amazing group of women in Chicago I was delighted for last year’s Rose and we supported each other.
“It’s all hands on deck and we’re a team at the Chicago centre.”
Ms McEldowney woke up yesterday morning, after two hours sleep, wondering if it all been a dream.
“When I woke up this morning I was wondering if it was all a wonderful dream, but it’s a dream come true and here I am.
“Just meeting all these people, name after name, is so inspiring,” she said.
The 2016 Rose hopes to spend as much time as possible in Ireland over the next year, describing the country as her second home.
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