Love Blooms for Rose in Ireland

NEW York's Rose of Tralee, attorney Lisa Murtagh, who won the international title in Ireland last summer, will move permanently to Ireland for another very special occasion in September.Murtagh will walk up the aisle to marry her long-time boyfriend Brian Fitzgerald from Askeaton, Co. Limerick. Murtagh, 28, was elated while she spoke to the Irish Voice on Friday. "We got engaged the Sunday between Christmas and New Year," she said.Not only is Murtagh celebrating her new engagement, she has also made another life changing decision - she is moving to Ireland permanently to carry out her rose duties.Murtagh is currently working out her final days at prestigious law firm Clifford Chance in Manhattan. "I don't have long left. I plan to be in Ireland by February 15," said Murtagh, explaining that the Rose and Rose escort reunion takes place in Co. Wexford that day. "I cannot miss that," she smiled.Upon returning to Ireland, Murtagh will tend to her Rose duties until she has to give up her title as the 2007 Rose of Tralee in August at the week-long festival in Tralee, Co. Kerry. "As well as carrying out all my duties in Ireland I also plan to do a lot of traveling and become more involved in my charity of choice, Concern," she added.Murtagh, who plans to eventually practice law in Ireland when her duties are completed, hopes to travel to Africa with her new fianc in April to do work with Concern. Australia is also on the cards for the newly engaged couple in June or July, and in between the traveling they have a wedding to plan.Why Ireland? "Because Brian is Irish and all his family and friends are there and the majority of my family are over there too," said Murtagh, explaining that her close friends are only looking for an excuse to visit the Emerald Isle. Murtagh said that September would work too for the nuptials because it will be right after the "craziness of Tralee." "The weather in Ireland is usually beautiful that time of the year," she added.However, it has also crossed Murtagh's mind that getting married, as the current Rose of Tralee, might also be nice. "I guess it will all depend on what venue is available," she says.Her mother Breda is from Athea in Limerick and her father, Colman, hails from Longford Town. The Murtaghs met in Gaelic Park in the Bronx in the seventies. Murtagh spent several summers in Ireland and a six-month stint in Dublin for study. It was on one of these trips in 2006 that Murtagh was persuaded to enter the New York heats of the Rose of Tralee competition."I was in Killorglin, which is about 25 miles from Tralee, with a friend when we got chatting to three women in their sixties. When they discovered I was from New York they tried to convince me to enter the Rose of Tralee. They said with my red hair and family background I'd be good for it," said Murtagh, and the rest is history.Murtagh, who has a younger sister Sinead, met her fianc Fitzgerald when she was 16 in his hometown of Askeaton. "He asked me to dance but at the time I had a boyfriend so I said no and he took off. I didn't think he was very nice," she remembers.Years later, Murtagh ran into Fitzgerald again in a bar in Manhattan. They became instant friends and eventually began to date.Fitzgerald traveled to Tralee to support his budding rose in August. Although Murtagh knew that she would spend the rest of her life with him, she had no idea that he would pop the question over the holidays and in such a romantic way. "Brian surprised me by taking me away the weekend of December 30th. We went skiing in Connecticut on the Saturday and then on the Sunday we went to a vineyard in Milbrook," explained the Rose. On the way back to New York, Murtagh asked her soon to be fianc to make a stop so she could use the bathroom. "Brian pulled over into a state park and when I came out of the restroom Brian asked me to come and look at something. There in the middle of the park was a huge six foot fireplace with the fire lighting." Under the sparkle of the flame, he got down on one knee, produced a ring and asked his Rose to spend the rest of her life with him. The fair-skinned beauty accepted.Murtagh, who will reside in Limerick with Fitzgerald when she returns to Ireland, has been kept very busy with her duties since her return to New York last September. The blossoming Rose has attended both the Longford Social Club and Longford GAA dinner dance in New York. She participated in the QVC Rose of Tralee special in Pennsylvania and went to England in November to represent the international festival at the Cheltenham races. Murtagh also attended the taoiseach's (Irish prime minister) ball in December where she happily shared a table with Irish football legend Packie Bonner.As part of winning the Rose of Tralee title Murtagh received a ?25,000 ($37,000) travel voucher to use for Rose business, the use of a car while in Ireland for the year and jewelry and cutlery from Newbridge Silverware.The newly engaged couple will move to Ireland in February. At this point they will visit various venues and locations and make a final decision about their wedding date. Although she will make Ireland her new home, Murtagh said she would always hold New York close to her heart and visit very often.

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