(Daithi O Se is one of Ireland’s top TV presenters who annually hosts the Rose of Tralee the most popular program on television)

For the past few birthdays I’ve been surrounded by beautiful ladies dancing and singing on stage in front of me. If I told you I was even on stage with them you might call me cheeky, with 54 of them over three nights and getting paid for it you’d say I was a liar.

 Before I get carried away I’d like you to take your mind out of the gutter for a minute and I’ll explain all.

Portlaoise smack bang in the middle of Ireland has become a hub for the Irish home and abroad over the past few years. The regional selections of the Rose of Tralee was introduced in 2005 with 32 Irish Roses going for 7 places at the international festival at the end of the summer.

In 2008 this changed to where all national and international Roses (excluding Australia, Kerry, Dublin and Cork, who go straight to the international selection) had to go through this process. The same year the regional selections moved from Tralee to Portlaoise.

When you have a Festival so big and TV shows that have some of the highest rating sof the year some people find it an easy target and would have a constant go at it.

As host of the TV shows I’m constantly asked if I thought it was out of date and relevant in today’s world. Well in my eyes it’s totally up to date and is as relevant as ever. It’s the Roses themselves that bring the festival and the TV shows up to date every year. If you had a time machine and brought a Rose from 1973 into this year’s show, she’d stand out like a swan among ducks! She would have done well in 1973 but would probably be lost in the accomplishments of today’s Roses, with respect to all who took part in 1973.

For all who sit in front of their computers and write negative things about the Rose of Tralee on TV just remember you have a remote control and don’t be afraid to use it. You probably don’t understand the importance of the Irish Diaspora!

The Rose of Tralee is probably one of the biggest connections the Irish world has. It’s a celebration of who we are and what we have achieved at home and overseas. In America we know of the Irish in New York, Chicago, Boston, Philly and Washington D.C. so it was great to see Roses from Kentucky( the first ever), Denver and Arizona being represented and to hear of their connection with Ireland and how the Irish make their way to those places. The same in Britain, I wasn’t aware of the large Irish connection with Derby and Sunderland. London, Manchester and Liverpool would have always been seen as the big Irish communities.

Then we move onto places like Luxemburg and Dubai. Not a place where the Irish went traditionally you might say, but now they boast a big number of us. Half a million people live in Luxemburg of which 2,000 are Irish. Canada is becoming home now to a lot more Irish for different reasons, visas being one of them. Again over the weekend we heard of the Irish diaspora there and how it is changing.

The world has changed so much. When you think of people who left Ireland in the 1930’s and 1940’s, when they left they were gone and that was it never to see Mam and Dad again. No phones around that time really not to mind Skype and facebook! I spoke to a man from Ottawa at the weekend who is originally from Athlone and he told me that him mother has Skype now and they chat every day. So not alone can he get all the news but he can see his mother on a daily basis.

My mother went to Chicago in 1960. Like many other she went over to family. She often speaks of the great times the Irish always had. Worked hard by day and played as hard at night. In 1963 she went for the Chicago Rose. She says she only entered so she could win a trip home to Ireland as of course this is part of the prize. To make a long story short she didn’t get through. I’m not sure if she ever recovered from the defeat! Only joking.

Back to the weekend at Portlaoise. 54 Roses over three night and out of them 23 go through to the International festival at the end of summer. What is to be the climax of the event i find the hardest.

You make friends with these Roses over the course of the weekend. There is the initial feeling of disappointment when you don’t get through but I think this goes away when the Roses think of how far they have gotten.

That was my last public duty as a single man. Most of the Roses reminded me that the next time I’ll be on stage with they I’ll be married, a sobering fact. At least I’m marrying a Rose. Her name is Rita and with my surname being O Se. Take her first initial R and add it to that you get ROSE! Weird or faith? I’ll let you decide.

Presenter Daithi O'Se with some of the 2011 32 Roses during their visit to RTEKOBPIX