Wednesday 18 September 2019

Mary Kennedy says of Sydney Rose's comment: 'Rose festival not the place to discuss abortion'

Brianna Parkins. Photo: Frank Mc Grath
Brianna Parkins. Photo: Frank Mc Grath
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

The chair of the Rose of Tralee judging panel Mary Kennedy says the festival was "not the place" for Sydney Rose, Brianna Parkins, to broach the subject of abortion.

Ms Parkins sparked controversy when she said during her appearance on the live TV show from 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 crowd clapped.

Her comments garnered widespread attention, with many commending her for using the Rose of Tralee as a platform to raise the contentious issue. Others felt it was inappropriate to air political opinions onstage at a festival that claims to be "politically neutral".

Festival organisers said Ms Parkins' opinion did not reflect that of the festival.

Ms Kennedy also said: "This was a point that she (Brianna) wanted to make but I don't think it's the place to do it. I don't think the Rose of Tralee is necessarily a political platform."

Mary Kennedy
Mary Kennedy

Ms Kennedy added Ms Parkins' comments would in no way inform the judges' decision.

The Sydney Rose said she was compelled to broach the subject after following the coverage of Twitter account 'Two Women Travel', on which two Irish women document a journey to the UK to undergo an abortion.

"When he (Daithí) brought up women's rights it just came to my head and came out," she said. "It seemed natural to talk about, as a women's rights campaigner… I think when you have a festival of 65 women it would be unfair to say you cannot talk about women's issues and women's rights. That just doesn't wash."

She added the 65 contestants were "strong women with strong opinions" who don't just "talk about handbags".

Pro Life Campaign spokesperson Cora Sherlock said she didn't think it was necessary to "politicise the festival", before adding "you can't dip your toe into the abortion debate. This is the Rose of Tralee, not Prime Time."

The subject of abortion was brought to the fore when the documentary 'Road to the Dome' informed viewers that Roses were quizzed about the issue of abortion by the judges.

Separately, RTÉ came under fire when one of their social media accounts claimed Ms Parkins was "going off script" when she discussed the Eighth Amendment. The Twitter account added "phew" when she began Samba dancing and encouraged viewers to "forget" about the incident.

Last night, RTÉ clarified that the comment was made in relation "to a political topic being raised on a light entertainment programme given the nature of the show in previous years, and not the subject itself".

Irish Independent

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