Waterford Rose Kirsten Mate Maher on stage singing Nina Simone's 'Feeling Good'. Photo: Domnick Walsh

The Lovely Girls Competition

Ok, so this post is really about the Rose of Tralee, but we all love a bit of Father Ted – don’t we?

When Father Ted first aired, Ireland was a different place, and I do wonder if shining the light of satire onto some of the more entrenched parts of our culture actually helped to move us along a bit towards marriage equality, repealing the 8th, and all the progressive stuff. It’s no harm to catch up a bit with where the rest of the world is at, and at this point, I think we’re doing a lot better than some other countries.

We definitely have the best president anyway!

One of things that Father Ted took the mick out of was our Lovely Girls competition, a satire on the Rose of Tralee.

So, the Rose of tralee wasn’t THAT, but there were some good comparative points to be made, in fairness. 

I think we all could have done with a few less questions on the boyfriends and the escorts, and more focus on the amazing women who were on stage.

But overall, I was left with the understanding that the Rose of Tralee is definitely not a beauty pageant as they do it in other countries, but instead very much in line with their mission to be ‘a celebration of the aspirations, ambitions, intellect, social responsibility and Irish heritage of modern young women’.

What is the Rose of Tralee Anyway?

A bit of background here.

The Rose of Tralee International Festival, held annually in County Kerry, is celebrated among Irish communities all over the world. The Festival was inspired by a ballad from the 1800s, about a woman called Mary who was called “The Rose of Tralee” on account of being lovely and fair.

In Tralee in 1957, the idea for the Rose of Tralee Festival started from a conversation among businessmen in a bar (because, Ireland) with a goal to bring more tourists to the town during the horse racing meeting, and to encourage expats to return to their native Tralee.

The event started in 1959, with a budget of just £750. Sure hasn’t it come a long way?

The Waterford Rose

Of course this year (2018) we had a good solid horse in the race, so to speak, with our own Redlane stylist and model Kirsten Mate Maher competing for the county as the Waterford Rose.

And watching the Roses’ interviews across the two nights was a bit of an eye opener on how progressive Ireland really has become.

Kirsten won it overall, as we know (we had EVERY faith in her!), but a close second was the Carlow Rose Shauna Ray Lacey, the only mammy in the show, who stunned and moved audiences with her personal story of tragedy, and the strength to overcome addiction in her family.

Between that, and the openness to diversity being shown by the reaction to Kirsten’s win, I have to say I’m proud of our little nation today.

Kirsten Mate Maher Rose of tralee 2018, with her parents


May the aspirations, ambitions, intellect, social responsibility and Irish heritage of the lovely girls continue in the 60th Rose of Tralee Festival in 2019.


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