Executive chairman of the Rose of Tralee festival Anthony O’Gara has suggested that the judges knew winner Maria Walsh was gay, as she wasn’t keeping it a secret, but it neither helped nor harmed her chances of winning.
Though the Rose of Tralee festival began in the 1950s, O’Gara maintains that it doesn’t remain in the spirit of the 1950s – rather, it reflects the spirit of each decade in which it takes place.
He deemed criticisms that it should be “twee” and “old fashioned” lazy commentary.
“There are few people out there who continue to support the notion that the Rose of Tralee is twee and old fashioned. It is not trying to be sophisticated,” he said, “there are ordinary people on stage trying to have a bit of fun. They are not pretending to be anything other than that.”
Maria Walsh is open about her sexuality and never intended to be secretive about being gay.
O’Gara told Radio Kerry that the judges weren’t taking sexuality into account: “Maria is a modern woman, as were all the other contestants, and she didn’t hide anything, and she didn’t want to highlight her personal life more than anyone else did.
“A little bit of common sense would tell people that was so…the judges were no more interested in her sexuality than I was. It wouldn’t be our business to question it one way or another.”
O’Gara is pleased that the LGBT community is celebrating Walsh’s winning success, but he said the Rose of Tralee festival will remain apolitical, and that its objective isn’t to become an instrument of social change.
“It is a good thing that in modern Ireland people have the common sense to know that all people should be valued equally,” O’Gara said.
Though the Irish LGBT community have “been in a tough place,” being gay in Ireland has become more normalized in recent years.
Listen to O’Gara’s interview here.