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Rose of Tralee is more than a 'lovely girls' competition, insists Aoibhinn

IT helped launch her into the national spotlight, but Aoibhinn Ni Shuilleabhain has insisted the Rose of Tralee is not a "lovely girls competition".

The Mayo native won the annual Kerry contest in 2005 and told the Herald she owes a lot to the event and the opportunities that came with being involved.

"I've always thanked the festival because I never planned going into broadcasting, I just fell into it after being in the Rose of Tralee and it gave me a platform; I owe them a lot and I'm grateful," she said.

"We have our own family of women that we keep in contact often - I always meet up with fellow Roses."

She said she feels the competition is still relevant today.

"It has changed in priorities and image over the last 50 years and the role it plays abroad is important for the diaspora," she said.

"For people in far flung places like San Francisco and Wellington in New Zealand, the festival is something that brings people together.

"It opens up the world to you and it's about celebrating being Irish.

"It's nothing too crass and it's a celebration of a form of Irish culture."

And for Aoibhinn, it's not just a contest for good looking women.

"I met a girl who said she'd love to be a Rose at some point, but can only do it after she has her degree.

"If that's the message that is getting out there for women, that's positive and there's nothing wrong with that," she said.

Aoibhinn also insisted that she and her partner Ryan Tubridy are not considering anchoring a programme at the TV station anytime soon.

The couple, who bought a home together in Monkstown, Co Dublin before Christmas last year, will not be Ireland's answer to TV couple Richard and Judy.

"I haven't thought about that, we'll see if the idea comes around," she said.

The 30-year-old brunette said that she's not angling to become the first female host of The Late Late Show either and will not take over from her other half.


"I think The Late Late Show is in safe hands at the minute and I actually do think there's a good gender balance in RTE at the moment," she said.

"I do think opportunities are there for everyone and there are a lot of stars on the rise here."

Aoibhinn is currently completing her PhD in Mathematics at Trinity College, so gave up her post as a co-presenter of travel series Getaways in order to finish it within three years.

However, once it is handed in this September, she harbours ambitions to return to the airwaves.

Last summer, Aoibhinn fronted a 10-week slot Aoibhinn & Company on Radio One on Sundays.

"I'd love to do more radio, I really enjoyed Aoibhinn & Company last year and I enjoy that medium," she said.