The Rose of Tralee jamboree is a bit like the Eurovision Song Contest — derided by many as an outmoded, tiresome, irrelevant and laughable spectacle but it remains an entertaining annual TV extravaganza that few viewers would miss.
Notwithstanding its slowness in reflecting the realities of modern Ireland, recent contests have shown it is beginning to shed its Father Ted-like “lovely girl competition” image.
A few short years ago it would have been unthinkable for any Rose contestant to reveal that her parents were drug addicts, but that is what Carlow Rose Shauna Ray Lacey, a bookie with a baby, did on the opening night of the contest.
The new Rose of Tralee, Kirsten Mate Maher, is the epitome of that change.
Kirsten is the first African-Irish winner of the competition and the third mixed-race woman to win, after 1998 Rose Luzveminda O’Sullivan and 2010 Rose Clare Kambamettu.
She wants Ireland to embrace its diversity, telling host Daithí Ó Sé: “We need to look past what we look like, the colour of our skin or our hair, our religion, anything like that, we’re all the same.”
A wise and well deserved winner.