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EXCLUSIVE: Miss Ireland Jessica Hayes wants to see a gay winner of pageant after Rose of Tralee

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Miss Ireland Jessica Hayes has insisted gay women shouldn’t be afraid of entering the competition if they are gay.

The Cork beauty told Goss.ie she was “delighted” that Rose of Tralee winner Maria Walsh was open about her sexuality.

And the 20-year-old said she feels it will now ensure that gay women aren’t afraid to enter the beauty pageant.

Philadelphia Maria Walsh 4

Brave: Jessica was delighted to see Maria being confident to come out

She said: “Now that Maria has had the confidence to come out and say she is gay, I think it’s a different time than before.”

And Jessica hopes that if there was a gay Miss Ireland in the past who afraid to come out, they should feel it is okay to do it now.

She said: “If there was they should come out and say it because there is nothing to be afraid of you should be happy in who you are.”

0616 NO FEE Harvey Nichols AW14

Launch: Jessica at Harvey Nichols | PHOTOCALL IRELAND

And Jessica – who was launching the Harvey Nichols Autumn/Winter collection – said she is “really happy” there has been no negativity towards Maria coming out.

She added: “I was delighted. I mean obviously it’s great when somebody can be so open about that. I was delighted for her.

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Winner: Jessica after taking home Miss Ireland crown | BRIAN MCEVOY

“The support has been positive for her and there has been no negative support or controversy so it’s great for her – I’m really happy.”

It comes as Vogue Williams has insisted she is fully behind the fight for gay marriage – as she wants her child to be able to marry if they are gay.