'It would be a bit silly for Roses not to have opinions - controversial or otherwise' - Rose of Tralee festival boss
Published 25/08/2016 | 02:30
Rose of Tralee chief executive Anthony O'Gara is at odds with the chair of the judging panel as to whether the issue of the Eighth Amendment has a place at the Kerry festival.
Mary Kennedy said the live televised finals were not the place to raise political issues.
The 'Nationwide' host made the comments after Sydney Rose Brianna Parkins (25) called for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment during Monday night's programme.
"I don't think the Rose of Tralee is a necessarily political platform, although for those two reasons (on Monday night) it did become political," she said. "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."
However, Mr O'Gara said it would be a "bit silly" to expect the Roses not to have opinions, "controversial or otherwise".
Mr O'Gara said he was "delighted" the Sydney Rose had spoken out as she did.
"I think it's a great thing that... if someone has an opinion that they will express that opinion.
"If you bring 65 women from across the world together, I presume a significant number of them would share that opinion."
The Pro-Life Campaign chastised the Sydney Rose for "dipping into the abortion debate".
Campaign spokeswoman Cora Sherlock told the Irish Independent that she didn't think the Rose of Tralee should be "politicised", adding: "It's the Rose of Tralee, not 'Prime Time'."
But yesterday Mr O'Gara said Roses are always asked controversial subjects during judging proceedings. "Every single year, as part of the judging panel, there are controversial questions asked, and they have to be really controversial questions. If someone becomes Rose Of Tralee, they are going to be asked their opinion. I think the judges are quite right to ask questions that are topical and controversial."
Meanwhile, the newly crowned 2016 Rose spoke about the value she places on her Catholic education. "I think Catholic education really moulded me into who I am today," she said.
Asked if she had an opinion on Brianna Parkins' comments, she said: "Honestly, at this point I don't.
"No offence to the Sydney Rose, but at this point I'm just trying to focus on what's ahead and all the wonderful things we'll be doing this year."
Last night RTÉ confirmed that it had received 13 formal complaints following Brianna's comments. The broadcaster stated that "as this formal process is under way, RTÉ will not be making any comment".