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No more beauties in bikinis as Miss Ireland covers up

Organisers of the Miss Ireland franchise have said they will continue to "phase out" the bikini element of the competition to make sure contestants feel more comfortable.

Heats for the competition, now in its 67th year, have already begun and up to 32 young women are expected to take part in the grand final in Dublin on July 19.

This year's winner will go on to represent Ireland in the Miss World competition in London in September.

The pageant attracted controversy last year after the swimwear section in Bali was altered and saw girls cover up in order to respect local traditions.

Sean Montague of Bheard Productions – which is behind the Miss Ireland franchise – told the Herald that they began to phase out the "photocall bikini element" of the competition after taking over the organisation.

"We would never enforce that on any of the girls and we wouldn't want them to feel comfortable. We wouldn't want them to feel under any pressure to strip off," he said.

Over the years, the Miss Ireland competition has produced some of the biggest names in the Irish model industry including Sarah Morrissey, Andrea Roche, Aoife Cogan and Rosanna Davison – the only Irish woman to win Miss World.