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Image / Editorial

I’m officially too old to enter the Rose of Tralee. What is THAT about?


by Grace McGettigan
20th Aug 2019
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At the tender age of 28, I am officially too old to enter the Rose of Tralee. Consider my childhood dreams of wearing the Tipperary Crystal crown crushed


The world is a much more inclusive place than it used to be. People of different genders, ethnicities, sexualities and ages have more choices available to them than ever before. It’s a wonderful thing.

Not all aspects of our society are as open, however. In two weeks time, I will celebrate my 28th birthday; which means that come September, I will officially be too old to enter the Rose of Tralee. Childhood dreams of wearing the Tipperary Crystal crown and shaking hands with Ray D’Arcy Dáithí Ó Sé are slowly slipping away.

According to the 2020 entry form, prospective Roses must not have reached their 29th birthday on or prior to September 1 2020. Sadly for me, that’s the exact date of my 29th birthday.

Rose of Tralee

The Rose of Tralee

For those of you unfamiliar with the competition, the Rose of Tralee is an annual pageant-style festival; during which women of Irish heritage attempt to charm the judges.

Unlike beauty pageants, the contestants are not judged on their looks but on their character and (by the sounds of it) youth. Their personality, intellect and ability to represent the festival (and Ireland) abroad are more important than how they wear a swimsuit.

Each year, women from all over the world join presenter Dáithí Ó Sé on stage; explaining their Irish roots before demonstrating one of their talents to the crowd (Irish dancing, poetry reading and singing are the go-to acts of choice).

Nice to have the option

Full disclosure: I may have over-exaggerated the ‘childhood dream’ part above. The thought of waving down to an escort before whisking off half of my dress to facilitate an Irish slip-jig isn’t actually something I fancy doing.

But it would be nice to have the option.

Knowing the opportunity to take part has been taken away from me is a bitter pill to swallow. Not to mention the prize for the winner is incredibly generous (we’re talking a new car and a worldwide travel plan worth €25,000).

Older escorts

Alas, little-old-me will never experience it. But get this: if I were a man I could still get involved, even in a few years time.

Each contestant is paired with a male escort for the duration of the festival. This escort chaperones her; he makes sure she feels comfortable and has everything she needs. And guess what the cut-off age for escorts is? Thirty-one.

Why, prithee tell, do the men of the competition get away with an additional 36 months of life?

Granny Rose

Wouldn’t it be great to open up the competition to people of all ages? I know I’d be more inclined to tune in if there were elderly women involved; working mothers and married women (because, no, married or separated women are currently not allowed to participate).

Don’t ladies with extensive life experience deserve a place on our screens? Not to mention the chance to represent our country abroad?

Wouldn’t you like to see your granny on stage, singing her favourite songs and telling her best tales?

Wouldn’t you like the option to get involved too, after you’ve travelled the world and established a career? I’d imagine many older women (and by older, I mean females of 29 and over) would love to take part if they’d only be given the chance.

To think an international competition like the Rose of Tralee continues to exclude such a large proportion of the Irish community is questionable…

Our eyes are on you, festival organisers.

The Rose of Tralee will air on August 26-27 on RTÉ One. 

Photos: Rose of Tralee via RTÉ One


Read more: Waterford’s Kirsten Mate Maher crowned 2018 Rose of Tralee

Read more: The Carlow Rose is the 2018 Rose of Tralee we need

Read more: Former Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh selected as MEP candidate for Fine Gael