Former Philadelphia Rose of Tralee winner Maria Walsh has been sensationally elected to the European Parliament for Fine Gael.
Described as "the new star" of the party, the 31-year-old Boston-born makes the stunning ascent to office after only three months in political life.
Read More: "I’m gay and I’m proud” says 2014 Rose of Tralee winner from Philadelphia
Walsh, who was raised in the Co Mayo town of Shrule, will represent the Midlands-Northwest Constituency.
Here's five things you need to know about me. This Friday, please vote No. 1 Maria Walsh.#mariawalsheu #EP2019 #EE2019 pic.twitter.com/kf6n30P4Tq— Maria Walsh (@MariaWalshEU) May 20, 2019
Speaking from the count center in Castlebar, Walsh said she was overjoyed at securing 107,198 votes.
“I am deeply humbled - a huge, great thank you to all, I am so encouraged and energized by your vote," she told the Connacht Observer.
Read More: Ireland’s gay sweetheart is also its Rose of Tralee
She said her campaign team spread the message that opportunity can happen in rural Ireland and she is 'so bloody passionate" about it.
"I feel privileged to represent all those in the Midlands-North-West and would like to thank everyone who voted for me and assure the entire electorate that I will work tirelessly to represent their best interests.
Diversity needed in politics
“It has been a great honor to meet so many throughout the constituency and I feel grateful to have this opportunity to make positive strides for all in this region.
“As a newcomer to the political platform, I am encouraged by your support, and would like to encourage others, who like me don’t fit the traditional political mold, to consider politics."
We need diversity to enrich politics,” she said.
2014 Rose of Tralee winner
The Rose of Tralee, held in Co Kerry, is Ireland’s leading women’s pageant, stressing personality, talent and looks.
It takes its inspiration from a 19th-century ballad about a woman called Mary, who, because of her beauty was called The Rose of Tralee.
Walsh beat off over 70 contestants from all over the world to take the gong when residing in Philly five years ago.
She became the 56th Rose winner of the event which was watched by close to a million people worldwide.
Fearless Rose of Tralee winner reveals sexuality
After taking the crown, Walsh revealed she was living openly as a lesbian, making her the competitions first LGBT winner.
“I’m confident in who I am as a person," she said afterward.
"To me, being gay is normal. I told my parents and they were supportive, as I knew they would be.
Read More: Reaction to gay Rose of Tralee shows how Ireland has moved on
“I’m not ashamed of my sexuality by any means. The Rose of Tralee is about celebrating women’s intelligence, careers, their volunteer work.
"The question of sexuality just never came up.
“To me, being gay is normal; it’s natural.”
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