Emigrant Roses reflect a sad new reality
THE new wave of emigration is starkly reflected in this year's Rose of Tralee.
Irish heritage has always been a prerequisite of entering the competition.
However, organisers have begun to notice a new trend where the entrants are not the children or grandchildren of Irish people, but have themselves emigrated.
Seven of the girls who represent places outside the country were born in Ireland.
And all three of this year's UK entrants packed their bags and made their homes in different parts of England in search of economic or educational opportunities.
Sunderland Rose Niamh O'Connell -- the 'Banana Song' girl -- was born in Tipperary but studies at Sunderland University, while Newry-born Caroline Marley left with a first-class honours degree under her arm to pursue a career as a financial analyst in London.
Derby Rose Niamh McTague left her native Co Galway to take up a job as a dietician at the Royal Derby Hospital.
The entrants from the southern hemisphere are also enjoying a trip back home in every sense of the word. New Zealand Rose Ailbhe Ryan emigrated three years ago with a master's degree in international relations from DCU and now works in customer service for an insurance company in Wellington.
Queensland's Tara Talbot can also be claimed as a true-blue Dub as the 27 year old was born in Dublin and lived there for the first five years of her life.
The Dubai and German Roses, Grainne Boyle and Saoirse Fitzgerald, have also sought opportunities abroad, Grainne as a special needs teacher and Saoirse as a marketing executive with Enterprise Ireland.
General manager of the Rose of Tralee International Festival Oliver Hurley puts this "new wave" of entrants down to the internet and the emergence of social media.
"I've been involved for seven years and in that time that's been the norm and I'm assuming it's the fact that a lot of people do the trip to Australia and take a few years out in different countries and they see this as an opportunity of getting back to Ireland," he told the Irish Independent.
"The way that the Rose of Tralee centres are networking now, it has opened it up to people who may not be engaged with the traditional Irish clubs and centres around the globe."