Rose of Tralee Festival boss reveals plans for permanent dome

It has long been an aspiration of the Rose of Tralee International Festival but having a permanent dome could be in reach with work commencing in the next two years.

Festival managing director Anthony O’Gara said he hoped work could begin before 2019, thanks to the generosity of donors.

“I think in the next couple of years you’ll see it happening,” he told the Irish Examiner.

“I think the land is available if we can come up with the finance, which we’re working hard on, and I think we will or people will on our behalf.

“We don’t have the means to make that happen, but we have the goodwill of a lot of people who might help to make it happen and that’s what we’re working on and I would be disappointed if something has not commenced in the next two years.”

But there was still the matter of last night’s selection before attention reverts to more mundane matters like fundraising and dome building.

The 14 remaining Roses were put through their paces last night where the chat was broken up by omelette making, opera singing, and even some CPR.

Unknown to the audience, Down Rose and newly qualified doctor Orlagh McNally had something hidden within her gown; a photograph of her late brother Colm, who passed away in October, aged 20, following a two- and-a-half-year battle with cancer.

She said she shared his inspiring story because it might help someone else going through their own struggle.

“He was diagnosed with cancer and because he was in chemotherapy, he wasn’t actually allowed go to school, so he studied by himself at home and pushed himself through the exams and got the grades he needed to get in to study mechanical engineering at Queen’s University,” she said.

“He went to university, led a fantastic social life, and never allowed cancer stop him from living his life.”

Although she spoke openly of him with host Daithí Ó Sé, Orlagh said she feared she would be overcome if she revealed what was sewn into her hem.

“She [the dressmaker] said I put this in there just in case you get through to the Dome he’ll mbe there with you. It’s nice to have that.”

Another Rose inspired by her brother is Florida’s Elizabeth Marince, who has a tattoo of a Converse runner on her left foot to honour Michael, who is profoundly physically and mentally disabled. Converse are the only shoes he wears as he tends to kick off others, she explained.

“Michael was not supposed to live a day and he’s lived to be 30 and it’s absolutely incredible,” said Elizabeth.

Michael was born missing half his brain, has a hole in his heart, and is non-verbal. His 24/7 care depends fully on her family. Yet, she feels lucky to have Michael in her life, whom she says shaped her into the person she is.

Elizabeth, who works at Disney World and is a volunteer with Special Olympics, also shared her grandfather Tom O’Donoghue’s emigration story.

He left Listowel at 19, with the clothes on his back, a cardboard suitcase, and $35 in his pocket. He opened the first Irish restaurant in Pittsburg.

“I have felt his presence here in Ireland, in Kerry, more than I ever have felt before in my life,” said Elizabeth, who sang ‘Up the Kingdom’ in his honour.

As she handed over her crown last night to the new Rose, Chicago’s Maggie McEldowney’s advice to her was not to waste a minute.

“You want to go out giving it everything you have,” said Maggie, who was sporting shorter hair, having donated her locks to a children’s cancer charity in June. “We’ve had a busy year but it’s a good thing and you don’t want to waste a minute.”

However, when asked for her thoughts on comments made by Sydney Rose Brianna Parks on the 8th amendment last year, Maggie said the festival was bigger than just one person’s beliefs or opinions and it was almost “selfish” to think about these.

“Some people might not agree with your opinion and to try and push something would be more disrespectful to each other,” she said.

“But in that same regard, I have all the respect for her and she’s happy to say whatever she wants as Bri but not as the 2016 Sydney Rose.”


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