By Kelly O'Brien
Rose of Tralee winner Maria Walsh has announced she is gay.
The 27-year-old announced she was "gay and proud" and that questions about her sexuality never came up during the Rose of Tralee festival.
She said: "To me, being gay is normal. I told my parents and they were supportive, as I knew they would be."
The Boston native moved to Shrule in County Mayo when she was seven-years-old and was crowned Rose of Tralee on Tuesday night.
"I'm confident in who I am as a person," she said.
"I'm not ashamed of my sexuality by any means," she said.
"The Rose of Tralee is about celebrating women's intelligence, careers, their volunteer work. The question of sexuality never came up. To me, being gay is normal; it's natural."
Stunning Maria joked after lifting the title that she was single and that any potential romantic suitors will need to first pass “the mother and father test” before being given a second look.
A native of Boston, Massachusetts, Maria moved to Co Mayo with her family 20 years ago but following her graduation in Journalism and Visual Media at Griffith College, moved to New York and later to Philadelphia.
Maria drew tears from family members during her interview at the Dome in Tralee on Tuesday night when she remembered her cousin Teresa Molloy (aged 19), one of four women killed in a crash on the N17 near Milltown, Co Galway in November 2009.
“It’s moments like this, like being in the Rose of Tralee, that make you really seize the day and appreciate life and take everything as it comes,” said Maria.
“She has given me a lot of good luck to date, so I know she’s looking down on me and my family.”
She has since received a host of media attention, but not just because of her new title. A video of her brother's reaction to the win went viral earlier this week as, did footage of the new Rose taking the ice bucket challenge.
Watch both videos below: