Gay Byrne was responsible for bringing the Rose of Tralee into the television age. He had doubts about the show when he began hosting it in 1974, but was soon taken by the event’s charm.
The Rose of Tralee contest celebrates young Irish women and the foreign-born descendants of Irish people. The programme has appeal because it is neither a beauty nor a talent contest, but a combination of both, in a personality show in which the contestants could be anybody’s daughter, sister, or niece.
RTÉ began carrying the show live in 1978. Some critics thought viewers would be turned off by the three-hour programme, straddling the nine o’clock news. But the ratings belied that assessment.
Its popularity has continued through the decades. Last year the show, hosted by Dáithí Ó Sé, was watched by 1.7m and the audience increased again during the final segment of the show. In addition, a massive international audience streamed it live online.
The Rose of Tralee is a celebration of the Irish diaspora.
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