A CONTROVERSIAL US child beauty pageant could make its return to Ireland as early as March.
Universal Royalty Beauty Pageant was forced to host its first Irish event in a pub in Co Monaghan last September after a number of venues pulled the plug due to an unprecedented backlash.
Organisers were undeterred, however, as they are planning to host three more events here in 2014, in venues across Dublin, Cork and Belfast.
The pageants, which rose to prominence in the US through the television show ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’, feature young children wearing swimsuits and other outfits.
The next event is set to take place in either Dublin or Belfast in just a couple of months' time, and a third event has already been confirmed for September in Cork.
While it was reported that the pageant was to return last December, founder of Universal Royalty Beauty Pageant Annette Hill said she didn't want to rush the event, so decided to wait until the New Year.
Ms Hill told the Irish Independent that she made the decision to host further pageants due to the massive number of supportive emails she received.
She claimed that outside of North America and Australia, Ireland is the most-requested place in the world in which to hold a child beauty pageant - however, she also said the Irish “took it to another level” when it came to negative reactions.
“Here in America, we have a pageant every day. Whenever we go outside the US, we expect a little something, but Ireland took it to another level. I was shocked, but that's part of the business,” said Ms Hill.
She said that “we've experienced it once, so now we're ready for next time”.
Ms Hill said she began looking at venues for the return visit during her first trip here last September.
She plans to arrange at least 10 venues for each city in the likely event of cancellations.
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Her entire 10-person entourage will join her during the visit, while she also intends to make the events free of charge to encourage as many entries as possible.
“We're going to have a free pageant, with balloons, teddy bears and bubbles, and gift bags for all contestants,” said Ms Hill.
The pageants will consist of two rounds: formal dress wear and Irish pride wear.
Ms Hill said that while the staff at Corrigan’s Pub in Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, which hosted last year's event, was very supportive, the upcoming events will require much larger venues to accommodate the high number of people she expects will attend.
Last year, Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald condemned such pageants as “inappropriate sexualisation of very young children”.