The world-famous Rose of Tralee festival will allow transgender women to compete for the first time in the competition's 63-year history when it returns later this month.
The festival, which was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, will return between August 19 and 23 with a variety of rule changes that reflect a more inclusive Ireland.
In addition to transgender women, married women will also be allowed to compete in the Rose of Tralee, while the age restriction has been expanded to include women up to the age of 29. The previous age restriction was set at 28.
Maria Walsh, a Member of European Parliament (MEP) who won the 2014 Rose of Tralee, told Irish radio station Newstalk that the decision to include transwomen was a "great thing" but added that she wished that the rule had been in place when she won the competition as "quite out-spoken and out-and-proud gay woman".
Walsh said she would raise the issue of the competition's age restriction with festival organizers later this month but said there "has to be some cut-off point".
She said the age restriction actually ensured that the competition was inclusive to all by limiting the number of people who can apply and therefore giving people a better chance of success.
"Much to people's dismay, there's thousands of people that enter into the festival worldwide each year, so I think that's a fantastic way to just make sure we're inclusive to all," Walsh told Newstalk.
Anthony O'Gara, the Executive Chair of the Rose of Tralee, told Radio Kerry last year that transwomen had never been explicitly ruled out from competing in the festival but said organizers were keen to move to a "policy stating that trans women are welcome as opposed to just presuming that they feel welcome".
O'Gara described the change as a "natural progression".