Rose boss slams 'cynical' festival 'trans ban' story

Simon Brouder

The Rose of Tralee festival company have vehemently denied that transgender women are barred from taking part in the world famous pageant.

A debate was sparked by an article in last Thursday's Daily Mirror in which it was claimed that entries from transgender women were not being considered, at the moment, but that the Rose of Tralee's entry policy could change in the future.

It appears the story may have been prompted by a Twitter post by the 2016 Sydney Rose, TV journalist Brianna Parkins, calling on more 'feminists, mixed race, queer, trans ladies' to apply to take part in the Rose competition.

Parkins - who provoked the anger of the anti abortion lobby when she made pro-choice comments during her live TV interview - has previously been critical of the festival which she described as "a great big Kate Middleton impersonation contest".

In a further tweet Parkins said she wanted to see the Rose of Tralee "reflect modern Irish society at home and abroad."

Following the Daily Mirror story, Rose of Tralee Managing Director Anthony O'Gara said the festival had never 'banned' transgender women and that they are welcome to enter the competition.

Asked if a transgender woman would be welcomed if she applied Mr O'Gara said "Of course she is. She's a woman. I'm not particularly interested in her personal life unless she wants to express that."

Mr O'Gara - who admitted the story had annoyed him - said he believed the real motivation behind the story was producing a catchy headline.

"'Trans' and `bans' rhymes. Put that on the front page and it sells papers and swells coffers. But it's not very respectful of women and particularly of women who might have had a sensitive situation such as trans women who have gone through a tough time," he said.

"Trans women are women and women are what the Rose of Tralee is all about and there is no ban," said Mr O'Gara.

He said that the festival's constant efforts to protect its entrants from invasive media attention had been misunderstood.

"We simply said we were in a place where we had to take time to consider how to handle that issue for exactly the reason we found ourselves in. The difficulty in being involved in something like The Rose of Tralee is it's in the media, it's on TV, and we have a duty of care to all the people who come on board and when they come on board, if they have a particular point of view or a particular aspect to their personal lives, we try to insure that it isn't abused and put out there on the basis of somebody trying to sell newspapers or otherwise," he said.

"I just don't think this is a good example of a media outlet treating something with respect," said Mr O'Gara.

"I think this is an effort to shine a spotlight on somebody and suggest that they're not treating an issue with respect whereas in fact they are," he said.

"I think there is something cynical and disingenuous sometimes when media get involved in sensitive issues and I think this is a good example of that. I'm sorry to say that because I'm sure I'll get slated in The Mirror," Mr O'Gara said.

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland has thrown out five complaints about last year's Rose of Tralee.

Most of the complaints involved the Sydney Rose Brianna Parkins - a journalist and vocal pro-choice advocate - who used her appearance to call for a referendum on the eighth amendment and who had compared Mass with going to the gym.

One complainant said her comments on the eighth amendment "constituted unwarranted interference in the internal affairs of the Irish democracy."

The complainant also took issue with the fact that the eighth amendment had been listed as a possible talking point when the Roses were interviewed by the contest's judging panel.

This, it was claimed, represented "a tacit promotion of abortion by RTE and judging panel."

Dismissing the complaints the BAI said Ms Parkins' comments were "the expression of a personal opinion made in the context of a light entertainment interview."

Kerryman

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