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New Rose of Tralee: 'There is no typical Irish woman'

Kirsten Mate Maher yesterday after being crowned the 2018 Rose of Tralee
Brendan Hughes

THE newly crowned Rose of Tralee has called on Ireland to embrace its diversity – and "realise there is no 'typical Irish woman'".

Waterford Rose Kirsten Mate Maher is the first African-Irish winner of the Rose of Tralee, and the third mixed-race woman to win the annual title.

The 21-year-old broke down in tears at the Dome in Tralee, Co Kerry, on Tuesday night as host Dáithí Ó Sé announced she is the 2018 Rose of Tralee.

She was joined on stage by her father Kwalo, who hails from Zambia, and her mother Jacinta, from Waterford.

Ms Maher, who hopes to pursue a career in computer programming, sings with the Island of Ireland Peace Choir which was formed in the wake of the 1998 Omagh bombing.

Speaking yesterday after her triumph, she said that Ireland as a country has "changed so much".

"We're all mixed and we're all from different parts of the world. I know it's a little bit more obvious with myself – I've curly hair and darker skin," she told RTÉ.

"But at the end of the day we need to see past that and realise there is no 'typical Irish woman'.

"We're all different and we all come in all shapes and sizes and skin colours and hair and freckles/no freckles. We're such a diverse community, and we need to embrace that."

The Rose of Tralee pageant is aired live on RTÉ and is one of the broadcaster's biggest shows.

Highlights from this year's contest included Carlow Rose Shauna Ray Lacey (24), who won praise from viewers after opening up about her parents' battle with heroin addiction when was growing up.

The bookies manager, who has a three-year-old daughter Emmy, was also the show's first mum in the decade since unmarried mothers were allowed to take part. Married and divorced women are still ineligible.

A total of 32 young women took part in the televised shows on Monday and Tuesday night.

They included 24-year-old Ciara Kelly, the Down Rose, who hails from Cabra and has a master's degree in atypical child development.

The last time a northerner won the title was back in 1979.

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