THE troubled Miss Ireland pageant was dealt a further blow over the weekend when only 10 out of 32 Miss Counties attended what was supposed to be a high-profile promotional event.
The 'Miss County 2009' was supposed to be a glittering night, attended by the 32 participants from last year's Miss Ireland contest, at Krystle nightclub on Friday, and was planned last month.
However, just 10 entrants showed up.
And reigning Miss Ireland Laura Patterson (20) was among those to skip the event.
The law student and Assets model was said to have remained at her home in Derry, and is understood to have returned to her previous shelf-stacking job in a supermarket.
"Some of the girls paid for hotel rooms for the night to be there because they had come from as far away as Galway or Antrim, so it was annoying that Laura didn't go," said one aggrieved guest.
"It's been planned for a while so everyone had plenty of notice and others managed to book time off work for it," they added.
Dundrum beauty Tania Zorilla, who was runner-up to Laura last year, was there despite an illness.
Tania arrived to the lacklustre affair shortly after 10.30pm and admits she was disappointed to see that only 10 out of the 32 girls had shown up.
Among those in attendance was second runner up, Miss University Terrie McEvoy and Miss Dublin North Margaret O'Reilly.
"I was literally lying in bed sick that night debating whether or not to go in for an hour when I got a text from one of the girls so I decided I should make the effort," she told the Diary.
"I've enjoyed filling in for Laura during the year at different things she couldn't make it to, especially Calcutta a few weeks ago when she was sick.
"The reunion party at Krystle on Friday night was kind of the last official Miss Ireland duty so it's back to normality for me now," she added.
The annual beauty pageant hit the headlines earlier that day when its main financial sponsor, Stephen Saleh of Diva Next Door, issued a statement to say he had pulled his involvement with the brand.
Krishna Naidoo, the businessman who owns the Miss Ireland franchise, is now living in Britain but is hopeful the contest will go ahead as normal.
The annual pageant has helped to launch the careers of Andrea Roche, Aoife Cogan, Sarah Morrissey and former Miss World Rosanna Davison.