'It's definitely representative'- Rose of Tralee Sinéad Flanagan defends competition in the face of criticism
The Rose of Tralee 2019, Sinéad Flanagan, has defended the competition following crticism that it is not fully inclusive, saying it is representative of modern Ireland.
Ms Flanagan, from Adare in Co Limerick, said that her own experience of eight consecutive years in college typifies Irish culture as it is in 2019.
Ms Flanagan was one of 32 competitors from Ireland or of Irish decent in this year's competition, 31 white and one contestant one-quarter Indian. All 32 of the Rose's escorts were also white. Last year's winner Kirsten Mate Maher is half-Zambian, however, and in 2014, now MEP Maria Walsh won the title, soon afterwards becoming the first openly gay rose.
The Limerick woman has been working as a junior doctor in Cork having graduated in medicine in May 2018. Prior to studying medicine she studied physiotherapy in UL.
Speaking on Morning Ireland on Wednesday, the Rose of Tralee winner said that her experience and the life experiences of the other Roses are emblematic of modern Ireland.
"For me personally, I don't think there is much more modern than eight years of college straight," Ms Flanagan laughed.
"So, from my point of view personally, I would definitely describe myself as a modern Irish woman. There were 31 other women up there that were with me of Irish extraction so I think we all represent ourselves, our families and our professions and from my own opinion anyway, it's definitely representative and I've had two of the most fantastic weeks of my life.
"We had myself, teachers, nurses, actors, all different types of people from different backgrounds, different life experiences and different things we could all learn from each other.
"Especially meeting the international Roses is fantastic. My roommate is from Ohio so I have never met anyone from Ohio before so I think that's it you just learn about people from all over the world but yet have the common interest in the Irishness."
Following her triumph, she received a Tipperary Crystal tiara, while KIA will provide her with a brand new car. She also receives a travel voucher worth €25,000, stays in The Rose Hotel, media vouchers, flowers and a week long excursion around County Kerry.
Ms Flanagan said that she couldn't believe when she was announced as this year's winner.
"I couldn't believe that they selected me," she said.
"For me, I never really thought about being the Rose of Tralee, at the early stages in Limerick it was just fantastic to be representing my county. Obviously somebody wins and it's going to be a fantastic year ahead but I feel for us a lot of the time it's just about being involved in the festival and the two fantastic weeks that we have because I suppose we've had an amazing time for the last ten days or two weeks. So, it's definitely a prize in itself.
"I've met a lot of young Irish girls and even a lot of young Irish boys over the couple of weeks and I think they all really cherish the Rose of Tralee and the memories and the friendships and the fun that surround so for sure [it was] something I had thought about [as a child].
Speaking to independent.ie in Tralee this morning, she revealed that she had always read about the Roses in the RTE Guide as a child.
"My dad used to buy me the RTE Guide and I'd be looking at the biographies. It was really fun and it is funny to be on the other side of that now," she said.
"It hasn't fully sunk in yet," she added.
It's a double celebration for the 27-year-old as her birthday is tomorrow.
After her win the Rose was brought to celebrate with locals in Tralee for 'Midnight Madness' where there was a special fireworks display in her honour.
"I got a few hours [sleep] anyway," she said laughing. She looked fresh in an orange dress and gold high-heeled sandals.
Being a Rose was always something the young junior doctor had on her bucket list and she timed it perfectly, as she was planning on travelling for the next while.
"It was something I thought about, I think it is a fantastic festival, something I was a fan of growing up so what that was my main reason," she said.
"Before this I was planning on doing some short term contracts, that will be the plan going forward."
"I would love to go the states which is usually part of the plan and the southern hemisphere so Australia and New Zealand too."
Watching on as Sinéad had her photos taken in the Rose Garden followin her win was another young girl who, like Sinead, had been picking her favourites from the Guide.
Olivia Crean (9) from Tralee said that Sinead had been her winner all along.
"I saw her in the magazine and I thought she was really pretty," she said. "Then when I saw her interview I said she is my favourite."Darragh McManus: Don't like the Rose of Tralee? Just don't watch - there's no need to take to Twitter to bemoan it