The 2016 Co Down Rose, Fainche McCormack, has slammed the way that she and other Roses were treated during the filming of a behind-the-scenes program on the contest, posting on the official Rose of Tralee’s Facebook page that the contestants were treated “like animals in a circus.”
ITV.com reports that McCormack,19, said she did “not sign up for a cheap reality television show in which our emotions would be manipulated for entertainment purposes.”
In a new addition to the contest's television coverage this year, the 65 Rose hopefuls were filmed by an RTÉ camera crew for a documentary called 'Road to The Dome.' The filming included the final selection process in which the contestants were split into two rooms. In one room, the finalists were told they had made it to the last stage of the competition while the remaining 33 Roses were told they would not be continuing.
McCormack said in her post, which has since been deleted:
“The Rose of Tralee was honestly the most amazing experience of my life, until Sunday morning…I, and my fellow rose sisters, did not sign up for a cheap reality television show in which our emotions would be manipulated for entertainment purposes, nor did we sign up to be treated like animals in the circus and held in a room against our will.
“Cameras intrusively followed us all week and asked inappropriate probing questions - asking one girl what colour underwear she was wearing right before she went on stage, what’s acceptable about that?
“I could go on for days about the many ways we were manipulated, bullied and mistreated; However, up until a certain point, the Rose of Tralee was the experience of a lifetime, every part of a little girl’s dream.
“It’s just a shame that television viewing numbers became more important that the truly amazing girls that got hurt and that now have to deal with the emotional trauma of the whole, quite frankly disgusting and cruel, ordeal.
“None of us signed up for a cheap reality television show and now unfortunately the Rose of Tralee is an experience I will never forget, for all the wrong reasons,” she added.
A Rose of Tralee spokesperson responded to McCormack’s comments saying: “The 65 Roses were aware from the outset that they were being filmed at all stages in the run-up to the live television shows.
“This also included the selection process where the 65 became 32 for the live televised programmes.
“In advance of the show going out on Monday evening, the festival were given the opportunity to view the programme and were happy with it.”
The spokesperson added: “We regret that the Down Rose Fainche McCormack was upset at elements of the filming process for the documentary, and RTÉ and the Rose of Tralee Festival have agreed to review the process for next year.”
Festival director Anthony O'Gara told Independent.ie that it wasn't unusual for contestants who didn't make the final 33 to have "strong reactions.”
However, he did agree that the filming of the 'Rose Cull' was "insensitive.”
"The manner in which the announcement was made was insensitive and we'll take that on board. We have apologized to the Roses. I accept that the Fainche is genuinely upset and I understand. The girls weren't properly briefed ahead of Sunday night's show.
He added: "Fainche enjoyed the 15-day experience and had continued to do so for the remaining two days. It's unfortunate that Sunday night ruined her overall experience."
The winner of the 57th Rose of Tralee International Festival was Chicago Rose Maggie McEldowney.