Rose of Tralee: Lots of hoopla but Sydney Rose causes biggest stir

There was kickboxing, there was hula-hooping, and there was Nathan Carter, but it was the Sydney Rose’s comments on the Eighth Amendment that had everybody talking on the final day of the Rose of Tralee Festival.

Mary Kennedy, chairwoman of the judging panel, said it was not the place to make the comment, whereas 2014 Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh said the Sydney Rose “rocked it”.

On Monday night, Sydney Rose Brianna Parkins, 25, 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.

“‘When he [Dáithí] brought up women’s rights it just came to my head and came out,” she said yesterday. “It seemed natural to talk about, as a women’s rights campaigner.

Sydney Rose Brianna Parkins teaches Dáithí Ó Sé to samba dance. Earlier, she encouraged full reproductive rights for Irish women
Sydney Rose Brianna Parkins teaches Dáithí Ó Sé to samba dance. Earlier, she encouraged full reproductive rights for Irish women

“It’s a big issue affecting Irish women and I hate seeing Irish women having to travel to England on one of the worst days of their lives.

“I think it’s really unfair.

“I was really surprised by the reaction. I thought there would be dead silence in the Dome, but there [was applause].”

Sydney Rose Brianna Parkins, Kilkenny Rose Sarah Kearns, and Queensland Rose Jess Logan. Picture: Domnick Walsh/ Eye Focus
Sydney Rose Brianna Parkins, Kilkenny Rose Sarah Kearns, and Queensland Rose Jess Logan. Picture: Domnick Walsh/ Eye Focus

However, Ms Kennedy said the stage was not the right place to bring up such a conversation.

“I don’t think the Rose of Tralee is a necessarily political platform, although for those two reasons [the Sydney Rose’s comment and the Justice4Fathers stage protest] last night [Monday] it did become political,” Ms Kennedy told the Irish Examiner.

“The Sydney Rose is very deeply committed to women’s rights and women’s concerns. She’s done some wonderful, wonderful work in Australia. This was a point that she wanted to make but I don’t think it’s the place to do it.”

Billy Moloney, aged 3, from Kilkenny, sits down beside the Dublin Rose Lorna Whyte at the Rose Hotel Tralee
Billy Moloney, aged 3, from Kilkenny, sits down beside the Dublin Rose Lorna Whyte at the Rose Hotel Tralee

When asked if Ms Parkins’ comments would see her relegated, Ms Kennedy said: “Absolutely not.”

Meanwhile, 2014’s Rose, Maria Walsh, the first openly gay Rose, said that Ms Parkins “rocked it”.

“I think it was a reflection on modern time,” she said. “I think she added her point of view and she made it strong. It was a question that led into it.

Ohio Rose Kathleen O’Donnell with Dáithí Ó Sé during last night’s show
Ohio Rose Kathleen O’Donnell with Dáithí Ó Sé during last night’s show

“She is a journalist in ABC and I think she rocked it, I think she offered an opinion that us women are talking about and it’s going to happen and she just made sure it was live on air.

“It took me two years to come up with a joke for Dáithí and she kicked in a political question, she did all that in under three minutes, that took me two years.”

In terms of entertainment last night, the Longford Rose, Caroline Doyle, 25, gave Dáithí a kickboxing tutorial, complete with gloves and pads.

The Roses gather in the Festival Dome and savour the atmosphere ahead of the final selection night
The Roses gather in the Festival Dome and savour the atmosphere ahead of the final selection night

“I did kickboxing for a year in Athlone, so I had it on my application form and then RTÉ asked me would I do it on stage,” said Caroline.

And Ohio Rose Kathleen O’Donnell, 22, chose hoop dancing, which she took up after retiring as a ballerina due to an ankle injury.


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