Mary from Dungloe breaks with 'Irish heritage' rule
THE popular Mary from Dungloe International Arts Festival has dropped one of its core rules to allow contestants from non-Irish backgrounds to take part for the first time.
An estimated 20,000 people are expected to visit the west Donegal town of Dungloe between now and next Sunday for the festival which aims to highlight the talents of the people of Donegal, from music, arts, food and theatre.
The underlying theme of the festival is the celebration of Donegal women, past and present. Similar to the Rose of Tralee it culminates with the crowning of the new Mary from Dungloe after contestants are interviewed by singer Daniel O’Donnell.
Previously contestants had to be single, under the age of 27 and of Irish background. However, for the first time the conditions on heritage have been dropped.
This has paved the way for Dungloe-based nurse, Anila Devasia from India to take part.
From Kerala a huge region in south west India, Anila (27) has been working at Dungloe Community Hospital since emigrating to Ireland in 2017.
Festival chairwoman, Anthea Atkinson said the move to drop the condition on contestants being Irish was "an easy one".
"We are now a much more diverse society today and we wanted to reflect that. It’s been a hugely popular decision and has gone down very well. The 'Indian Mary' has absolutely no Irish heritage and wouldn’t have been able to compete under the old conditions,” she said.
Ms Atkinson said the festival hoped to expand to other areas which did not have a direct link to Ireland or Dungloe.
“We’ve already had contact from Holland and Australia but they were too late for this year’s festival but will have their entries in for next year,” she said
Among Northern Ireland contestants this year will be Co Tyrone woman Aimee Cuddy (22), a daughter or country singer, Shawn Cuddy while the Philadelphia Mary, Madelyn Devlin (21) has family links with Tyrone and Derry.