The Gay New Rose of Tralee
By Matthew Skwiat, Contributing Editor
October / November 2014
The annual Rose of Tralee festival concluded in August with the crowning of a winner, Maria Walsh.
The stunning new Rose, a native of Boston, beat out 31 other Roses to win the title.
The announcement of the winner coincided with a revelation that Walsh was gay.
After her crowning, Walsh sat down with The Sun newspaper and revealed her sexual orientation saying, “I am confident in who I am as a person.”
The Rose of Tralee festival began in the 1950s and takes place every year in Tralee, Co. Kerry. Its reputation has spread far and wide, and Irish communities all over the world send representatives to the festival.
Walsh’s revelation brought a touch of modern life to the festival, which has been accused of being old-fashioned and out of touch. Not so, Walsh said, telling The Irish Times, “I know the 31 other Roses who shared this moment with me are very far from old-fashioned. These women are classy, and intelligent.”
Walsh’s announcement makes her the first openly gay Rose, and her declaration was greeted with enthusiasm throughout social media and in print.
Former government minister Mary O’Rourke referenced the song, “The Rose of Tralee,” saying Walsh epitomized the words, “It was the truth in her eyes ever dawning,” which Walsh said was “lovely.”
The Rose of Tralee executive chairman Anthony O’Gara had noting but positive things to say about Walsh.
He described her as “A wonderful person. An attractive, intelligent woman, and a very worthy winner who happens to be gay.”
While there may be some who continue to denounce homosexuality in biblical terms, for the most part the Irish greeted Walsh’s announcement as no big deal.