Ireland’s Rose of Tralee International Festival will now permit married women to enter and has raised its age limit for 28 to 29 years old.

Trans women are also welcome to apply to become the next Rose of Tralee, with festival director Anthony O'Gara today clarifying that that has been the case for some time now.

O'Gara told Radio Kerry on Wednesday: "Somebody who identifies as a woman, as a female, would be very, very welcome to enter. That has been the case, but we haven't stated it possibly strong enough in the past so we just want to confirm that."

The Festival, which has been on a pandemic hiatus for the past two years, is now accepting applications for its 2022 events. The €300 sponsorship fee required for entrants based in Ireland has also been reduced to €200 for 2022, the Irish Examiner reports.

The qualifying criteria to become a Rose is reviewed every three to four years “just to keep abreast of what’s happening in the world out there" O'Gara told RTE Radio on Wednesday.

“The way that people live their lives changes over time," O'Gara said, "and the people that we deal with are in their 20s, and 30 years ago, 40 years ago, when I went to Tralee first, people tended to get married in their early 20s, now it’s probably early 30s.”

When asked why married women couldn’t apply previously, O’Gara said: “I suppose it was reflective of the tradition of the festival up to then and the way the world was up to then.

“About ten years ago, women who had children were allowed in, and it’s just a natural movement from that to allow married people to become involved.

“Now, the number of people under 30, as you’re aware, who are married at this stage is very, very small, but at the same time, it’ll be nice to welcome some people in who may be married and want to do it.”

When pressed why there should be an age limit at all, O’Gara said the festival “celebrates young women.”

“We have been connecting the global Irish family and their story and acknowledging their contribution to the world for 60 years now,” O’Gara said, “and we celebrate that connection through young Irish women and they are real women from those communities around the world.

“That’s our tradition, so that’s what we do.”

A new phase for the Rose of Tralee

O'Gara said that the festival is hoping to expand into more community-level events in 2022: "We’re starting a new phase where we will have maybe ten events in every county from now on at community level and raise some money in communities rather than just have a county final.

“It’s all a part of that change and new structure we’re hoping to bring to the table.”

Whle the festival is finally returning after two years, it is set to look a little different. O'Gara said the final events will likely not be held at the Dome in Tralee, Co Kerry and that organizers are eyeing the Munster Technological University (MTU) for events.

Dáithí Ó Sé, who has hosted the festival for a number of years, told the Irish Sun that he is "very excited" about the rule change.

"It's a very positive move and shows that there's a place at the ROT for everyone. It will certainly make a lot of the chats very interesting and that is always welcome."

When asked about potential criticism, he said: "Critics will be critics. Merry Christmas to them."

In a video shared on the festival’s social media on December 20, the reigning 2019 Rose of Tralee Sinéad Flanagan said: “I know we’ve all been through a very challenging time over the past two years, but we look forward with hope and excitement for all to come in 2022.”

ENTER THE 2022 Rose of Tralee International Festival

Enjoy a Festive Greeting from the reigning 2019 Rose of Tralee - Sinéad Flanagan. Also exciting News, as Sinéad announces Applications are NOW OPEN for the 2022 Rose of Tralee International Festival. Festival dates August 19th - August 23rd Applications details as follows: #roseoftralee2022 #Rose #enter #irishheritage #tralee #RTE

Posted by Rose of Tralee International Festival on Monday, December 20, 2021

You can apply for the 2022 Rose of Tralee International Festival online here.