'I would have been a hypocrite not to mention Eighth Amendment on stage', says Sydney Rose Brianna
Sydney Rose Brianna Parkins said she raised the issue of the controversial Eighth Amendment, which makes abortion illegal, on stage at the Tralee Dome as she believed it would be "hypocritical" to ignore it.
The Chicago Rose, Maggie McEldowney, was crowned the Rose of Tralee 2016 last night.
But Parkins sparked controversy when she told the audience in the Dome that she would love "to see a referendum on the Eighth coming up soon".
"That would be my dream," she said as the audience applauded.
Her comments drew widespread attention, with many praising her for using the Rose of Tralee as a platform to raise the contentious issue.
Talking to the Herald she said she was overwhelmed by the positive reaction she had received.
"It's been really heartening and some mothers of young girls contacted me to say, 'My daughters were watching and thank you for being an advocate for Irish women and being an ally. I'm really proud my daughter got to see that on TV'."
Parkins added she was not the only Rose with strong opinions on the subject and the Roses had discussed the issue at length in their preliminary interviews.
"We're not just talking about handbags. We're talking about sexism in the workplace and the wage gap," she said.
"It wasn't that I am the odd one out. We all have different viewpoints and we're respectful.
"It was touched on in the questions during the group interview, so it's not like the Rose of Tralee completely ignores issues. It was brought up, so it is part of the festival, but perhaps in a more private way," she added.
However, last night Rose of Tralee judging panel chair Mary Kennedy said it was "not the place" for Parkins to broach the topic.
"This was a point that she (Brianna) wanted to make but I don't think it's the place to do it," she said.
"I don't think the Rose of Tralee is a necessarily political platform."
Kennedy was quick to add that Parkins' comments would in no way inform the judges' decision in selecting the Rose.
Meanwhile, Justice4Fathers protester Matt O'Connor who interrupted proceedings dressed as a priest will not face any sanctions.
The protestor, who campaigns for increased rights for fathers, was tackled by security after he made it on to the stage during the first night of the competition. He was then brought to the garda station in Tralee.
Once he had been identified he was released as he had committed no offence.
O'Connor, who is second generation Kerry Irish said it is the first of several high-profile protests his group plan to stage in the next 12 months.