The head of the Rose of Tralee, Anthony O’Gara, has said he is “delighted” the Sydney Rose expressed her opinions, one of which is a desire to have a referendum on the Eighth Amendment.
“The young women involved are exceptional people, they are independent obviously, and it would be a bit silly to expect that they wouldn’t have opinions, controversial or otherwise, on different things,” said Mr O’Gara.
“I am delighted that people express their opinions and that there is reaction and let that flow.”
On Monday night, Brianna Parkins, 25, told Rose of Tralee host 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.
Mr O’Gara, the executive chairman of the festival, said it was a “great thing” that contestants expressed their opinion. He assumed that more people held similar opinions to Ms Parkins.
“I think it’s a great thing that you know that, if someone has an opinion, they will express that opinion. When you have 65 women from different parts of the world together I would presume a significant number of them share her opinion,” he said.
“It’s a bit like any other part of society; you ask any of the escorts their views I think you’d get a mixed opinion. But we have to deal with the reality.”
Mr O’Gara also said the festival was about celebrating the wider Irish family.
“Sometimes in our views, we are very narrow in what being Irish is. Very often an American or an Australian girl might be pilloried because they speak in a different accent with a different attitude about things.”
He said it was time to wake up to the reality that there were “strong” Irish people around the world, who were just as Irish as anyone else, “whether they are first or fourth generation”.
His views are at odds with the chair of the judging panel, Mary Kennedy, who said the Rose of Tralee stage was not the place for Ms Parkins to express her opinion on the Eighth Amendment.
Meanwhile, RTE has said the crowning of the Chicago Rose as the new Rose of Tralee drew a peak of 743,800 viewers.
“Over the two days a reach of over 1.7m people tuned in to watch the Rose of Tralee, making it one of the highest rating programmes of the year,” said RTÉ.
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