Rose Maria will seek FG EU seat

Simon Brouder

Ending weeks of speculation, former Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh has this week confirmed that she is hoping to contest this year's European Elections as a Fine Gael candidate.

Ms Walsh - who is arguably the best-known winner of the contest and remains enormously popular nationwide -was the first openly gay winner of the competition and has become a well-known and powerful advocate for LGBTQ issues.

The 31-year-old - who is from Mayo but represented Philadelphia in the 2014 Rose of Tralee - is seeking the Fine Gael nomination to join the party's European Election ticket as sitting MEP Mairead McGuinness's running mate in the Ireland Midlands-North West constituency.

Making her announcement on Sunday, she referenced her experience as Rose of Tralee.

"Five years ago I was chosen as the 2014 Rose of Tralee, an honour which brought me all around this great country, but more importantly, it gave me a platform to make a positive impact in people's lives," she said.

Ms Walsh said in her various roles - as Rose of Tralee; as a broadcaster; as an ambassador for mental health charity Jigsaw and as a member of the Irish Defence Forces reserves - she has travelled the country extensively and met people everywhere who share the same concerns and aspirations.

"Everywhere I go, I meet people of all ages with the same hopes and concerns. The same constant questions crop up. 'Will there be enough opportunities for me to raise my family in rural Ireland and for my children to stay here after that? How will the next CAP reform affect my family farm? How will Brexit affect my business?'" she said.

"I want to become an MEP and represent the interest of a wide constituency that is going through many changes," Ms Walsh added.

The Fine Gael European selection convention for the Midlands-North West constituency will be held on February 22.