Rose of Tralee 2016 winner Maggie McEldowney has hit back at critics of the festival.
After Down Rose Fainche McCormack and Sydney Rose Brianna Parkins publicly hit out at RTÉ and Rose of Tralee bosses for the alleged unfair treatment of contestants – Chicago Rose Maggie has taken a stand to defend the competition.
Sydney Rose Brianna also came under fire as she supported the Repeal the 8th campaign, and now the crowned Rose has suggested that the festival isn’t the place to air political views – and revealed why she would never do so.
In a statement obtained by the Irish Times, Maggie said, “This event is not to celebrate the ambitions and political beliefs of the modern day Irish woman. Could you imagine if all 65 of us had a political agenda on stage? That is not what this festival is about and that is ok.”
Controversial: Sydney Rose Brianna aired her political views on stage
“My political stances (which I have) will not be in the headlines because this festival is not about me and my opinions,” she said.
“It is about the celebration of my class, modern day Irish women, the marvelous women who had the title before me, and the remarkable list of wonderful things we are all doing (in our careers, in school, in local charities and causes) in our respective parts of the world.
“In no way is the Festival stealing our voices, they are just asking us to respect the festival and what it stands for while we are representing it. I genuinely feel that is not asking too much.”
Referring to comments made by Down Rose Fainche and Sydney Rose Brianna, who cited that Roses were “treated like animals in a circus” during filming for RTÉ’s behind-the-scenes documentary Road to the Dome – Maggie said it “was difficult for everyone involved”.
Tough: Rose winner Maggie says selection process was tough for everyone | BRIAN MCEVOY
“We signed up for this knowing there’s a good chance we will not go through, since the judges are required to basically cut the group in half. The issue was with how the news was delivered. No one is downplaying that or trying to make light of that.”
The 27-year-old also revealed that Rose of Tralee boss Anthony O’Gara apologised to the Roses who were left feeling upset.
“He promised on behalf of the Festival that the entire process was going to be reviewed and things will be resolved for the Roses who participate after us. He offered us the opportunity to hand in our sashes and enjoy the rest of the festival with our families.
“At that point in time, there was nothing else that man or his team could do. The damage had been done, and he was ‘unreservedly apologising from the bottom of his heart’ for it. He made it clear that ‘this level of treatment was not to the Rose of Tralee Festival standards’, and was ‘so, so sorry’.”
Hitting back: Maggie says some of her fellow Roses were made out to be ‘ungrateful, catty princesses’ | BRIAN MCEVOY
To finish her statement, Maggie hit out at the media’s coverage of the issue, and said that a few of her fellow Roses were depicted as “who are only in it for the show”.
“We, my classmates, the chaperones, the volunteers, the committee members- we the International Rose of Tralee Festival, have all worked too hard over the last 12 months and particularly the past two weeks giving every ounce of energy we had left into this festival, and I will not allow the media to depict any of these people in anything but the greatest light their little pens can descriptively portray.
“I hope over the next 12 months, I am able to very clearly embody through my actions what my class is made of, what the beautiful people of the festival stand for, what the unforgettable International Roses before me have accomplished, and give this festival the outstanding media attention it deserves,” she added.