Roses chief blasts 'boorish nonsense' from festival critics
Rose of Tralee boss Anthony O'Gara has defended the festival, denying it was "Paddy Whackery" or "Colleens on Parade".
In a strongly worded open letter, Mr O'Gara wrote about "misconceptions" of the Rose of Tralee International Festival.
Mr O'Gara - who has been credited with turning around the fortunes of the popular festival since becoming chief executive in 2004 - said the organisers were "not sensitive to criticism", but asked for fairness in commentary.
"The Rose of Tralee is not all about Paddy Whackery, Colleens on Parade, Stepford Wives tricked out as national stereotypes, flagrant misogyny or masquerading as Irish culture," he wrote.
"We are not interested in stereotyping women. We celebrate exceptional women and accept them as the proud people they are, whatever that might be."
He hit out at critical media commentary of the festival, describing it as "boorish nonsense from uninformed opinion writers" trying to impress their peers. He said the "misconceptions" were "foisted on the unsuspecting public" by "zealous, angry and misguided social commentators".
Although Mr O'Gara does not mention newly-crowned Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh - except to say that she will be on 'The Late Late Show' on Friday night - it is thought his remarks were sparked by commentary since a Sunday newspaper revealed she was the first lesbian to wear the crown.
He noted that the festival was all about celebrating exceptional women and about accepting them as "the proud people they are, whatever that might be".
He challenged anyone who watches her appearance on Friday night not to "fall under her spell".
Mr O'Gara pointed out that the festival's economic value - it's estimated to be worth €12m to Tralee and the other towns and villages visited as part of the Rose tour, as well as the charities that benefit from their association with it.
"Please, get over the outdated 'lovely girls' joke. We have," he wrote. "This bandwagon has long since lost its wheels after being so laden-down with the prejudices of uninformed baloney of the faux intellectuals."
He added that the festival was "one of the most important threads to connect Irish people throughout the world with home and that is a fact for over 55 years".