21st Aug 2018
As a proud Kerry woman, the Rose of Tralee is an unmissable spectacle in the land of the McGillicuddy Reeks. My own mother cries each year when the winner is crowned. However, over the years the festival has gained some backlash due to its “lovely girl” ways. Some people think that Tralee, and its Roses, are living in the 20th Century when women spent their days at home baking scones and saying a rosary or two.
A young woman from Carlow broke that formula last night.
Shauna Ray Lacey is the Carlow Rose. She is a mother and has been since the age of 21, something that previously, was unheard of for a contestant. Her little girl Emmy beamed in the audience as she cheered her on. Daithi referred to her as the “Mammy Rose” but this was a narrow definition of this woman and what she represented.
Drug addiction was a facet of her life. She touched viewers with her willingness to open up about her childhood and the plight of addiction that came with it. Both of her parents struggled with a heroin addiction. Sadly, her father passed away five years ago after a series of heart operations.
Despite these battles, she survived. She talked about how many children of addicts often follow in the paths of their parents but fortunately for her, she found another way. She was frank and honest. And spoke eloquently about the harrowing struggles of addicts in this country. Through her charity work, she aims to show recovering addicts how to re-establish their lives after addiction. She added that she often feels that addicts are “unsure what to do” after leaving treatment centres.
On hearing that she was pregnant, her own mother made the decision to give up heroin completely, telling her daughter that ‘I wasn’t in your life but I will be in Emmy’s life’”.
Social media loved her, and rightly so. She is exactly what the Rose of Tralee needs. Guilt eats me as I say it, but in recent years the competition has failed to depict more than one facet of society. The first openly gay Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh was a superb advocate but ever since these individual stories have been few and far between. Modern Ireland is made up of layers, seams of people with different backgrounds, stories, and hardships. It is ignorant and unfair to think that the Roses represent a cross-section.
The platform that the Rose of Tralee stands on is huge. And to give the Carlow Rose the stage to speak about these issues is powerful. It takes a certain type of bravery to stand in front of over 1 million people and speak about your trials, but she did so with grace.
If the Rose of Tralee had sense, they would crown her the winner. But whatever the outcome, she has become the peoples choice. A beacon for those who may think they have no choice but to become a product of their situation. And a light of inspiration for the young girl who may not believe she could ever enter a competition such as the Rose of Tralee.
Her story is a part of the Ireland we live in and she is the type of Rose we need.
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