Married and trans women can now enter the Rose of Tralee

The Executive Chair said the rules of the competition change every three to four years to “keep abreast of what’s happening in the world.”

Earlier this week, Executive Chair of the Rose of Tralee Anthony O’Gara announced that married and trans women can now enter the Rose of Tralee.

The change comes as the competition tries to keep up with modern times and make positive forward moves towards greater inclusivity.

The age limit for those entering has also been increased from 28 to 29. So, you might have one more chance to enter than you thought.

What is the Rose of Tralee? – one of the biggest events in the Irish calendar

Married and trans women can now enter the Rose of Tralee.
Credit: Facebook / @roseoftraleefestival

The Rose of Tralee, or Rose of Tralee International Festival, is an international event celebrated among Irish communities worldwide.

First held in 1952, the annual event takes place in Tralee, County Kerry, every August. The festival finds its origins in the crowning of the local Carnival Queen, which was once an annual town event but fell by the wayside due to post-war mass emigration.

The annual Race Week Festival was resurrected in 1957, and in a bid to attract more tourists to the town for the horse racing, three Kerry businessmen came up with the idea for the Rose of Tralee.

The event takes its name from a 19th-century ballad of the same name about a woman called Mary, who came to be known as the ‘Rose of Tralee’ because of her unrivalled beauty.

Today, young women compete every year to be crowned the Rose of Tralee. The winner is chosen based on which woman best fits the attributes of ‘lovely and fair’ relayed in the 19th-century song.

Looking to the future – married and trans women can now enter the Rose of Tralee

Kirsten Mate Maher won the competition in 2018.
Credit: Facebook / @kirstenmatemaher

Throughout the festival’s 60 year history, the competition rules have changed time and time again.

When the competition first began, only women from Tralee in County Kerry were eligible to take part. In the early 1960s, the rules were expanded to allow any women from County Kerry to compete. Then, by 1967, any woman of Irish birth or ancestry could take part.

The competition has continuously evolved throughout the last 60 years to keep up with modern attitudes. In recent years, three women of mixed heritage have been crowned the Rose of Tralee.

This increasing focus on inclusivity and diversity was best summed up by the 2018 winner Kirsten Mate Maher. The 21-year-old is of Zambian-Irish heritage; her father is from Zambia, and her mother is from County Waterford.

Following her win, she said, “There is no ‘typical Irish woman’. We’re all different, and we all come in all shapes and sizes and skin colours. We’re such a diverse community, and we need to embrace that.”

A competition for all – reflecting Ireland’s diverse population

The historic change means that married and trans women can now enter the Rose of Tralee.
Credit: Facebook / @roseoftraleefestival

Worldwide mobility has vastly increased and international attitudes have shifted over the past 60 years. So, the nature of Ireland’s population has become increasingly diverse.

To reflect the country’s ever-changing population, the Rose of Tralee competition reviews its guidelines every couple of years.

The most recent change comes this week as married and trans women can now enter the Rose of Tralee.

Anthony O’Gara announced the rule change of Radio Kerry earlier this week. Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland yesterday, he said, “The way people live their lives changes over time, and the people that we deal with are in their 20s.

“30 or 40 years ago, people tended to get married in their early 20s, but now it’s probably their early thirties.”

The news that married and trans women can now enter the Rose of Tralee has been welcomed by many.

Honouring tradition while reflecting Ireland’s diverse population is an important step to creating a more inclusive society. This is something that people across Ireland strive to do every day.