Yesterday the news broke that 2014 Rose of Tralee, Philadelphia Rose Maria Walsh, is gay.
But the real news was that for most people, including the Rose of Tralee festival committee itself, it wasn’t really news at all.
"I'm confident in who I am as a person," the 27-year-old said, in a matter of fact interview with The Sun that laid the truth bare.
Others were equally confident in Walsh too. Her sexuality is likely to "create some interest, hopefully all positive,” the executive chairman of the festival Anthony O'Gara told the press this weekend.
Twitter and Facebook erupted, with the majority of commenters applauding her brave decision to come out. But others got in line a little too hastily to write a terse “so what?” as though there could never be any controversy about being LGBT nowadays.
If only. Right on cue a host of apoplectically angry commentators reminded us why it’s still news when Ireland’s Rose of Tralee sweetheart announces she’s gay. Across the internet they posted strong biblical condemnations or outright bigoted profanities, carefully calculated to wound.
It didn’t matter though. Walsh has already won, so they could only lose. Now Walsh’s brilliant win sets the stage for another major public relations battle.
In New York, like every prior Rose, she will be feted and fawned over during the 2015 Saint Patrick’s Day season. The Rose of Tralee competition has already show us that Walsh has courage, heart and class, and so hopefully her example will inspire others to show her the same courtesy now.
If New York’s Saint Patrick’s Day Parade Committee is still discriminating against – rather than embracing – Irish gay people by 2015 (almost 100 years after the Rising that was fought in the name of freedom for all Irish people) they will look and sound like last century's men.
The fact is that Ireland has changed utterly; an Irish gay group has already won the best float award in the Saint Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin. A massive rally was held at the weekend to amend the constitution to permit same sex marriage. Now a Rose of Tralee, the nations sweetheart, has revealed she’s gay.
Here’s the message of the Philadelphia Rose to the New York Saint Patrick's Day Parade Committee: she’s as Irish as the rest of you. So if she chooses to, let her march in New York in 2015 under the proud banner of the Irish LGBT.