LIMERICK’s absence in the Rose of Tralee final over the past four years has prompted the resignation of the local Rose Committee – leaving the county’s future representation in the competition in doubt.
In recent years the organising committee has been highly critical of the method of selection of Roses for the finals, which has seen Limerick without a representative in Tralee since 2007.
And this week, after an involvement spanning 51 years, the Limerick Rose Committee/Kerry Association in Limerick has announced that it is handing back the running of the Limerick Rose selection to the International Rose of Tralee Festival.
“It was very sad that for the 50th Rose of Tralee in 2009 we had no Rose. There were other centres represented in Tralee for the first time who have not been back sense, I suppose that was very heartbreaking for us,” said Martina Murphy who was involved in the Limerick Rose Committee for 11 years.
Since a new selection structure was introduced in 2005, Limerick Roses have no longer secured an automatic entry to the final in Tralee and have, instead, had to go through regional finals. Limerick qualified at the regional finals in 2005, 2006 and 2007, however, for the last four years Limerick has not had a Rose on stage in Kerry.
According to Ms Murphy, a teacher at the Salesian Secondary School on the North Circular Road, she has raised this issue every year with the Rose of Tralee committee but to no avail: “I would say Tralee were sick of hearing my voice at the end of the phone.
“We were very vocal about the regional final and the unfairness of it but we had an excellent working relationship with them. Anthony O’Gara has spoken publicly about how we were the strongest committee in the world – definitely the largest committee as well. But we just couldn’t get past it. The loyalty of the 50 years didn’t really make any difference to automatic entry. We were put into the pot alongside the others. What was unfair, I suppose, was Cork and Dublin had automatic entry whereas we didn’t,” she said.
A letter was sent by the Limerick Committee to Tralee last week outlining its decision, and as of yet there has been no response. “They might be on holidays or they might be out of the country but we are yet to receive a response. We do wish our successors well,” said Ms Murphy.
Diane Hannegan the International Rose in 1984 – Limerick’s first, and who was followed by Muirne Hurley in 1994 – says the change in the selection process has affected the quality of the Roses. “I think what’s at the root of the problem is that the Limerick Rose selection has always been such a serious selection and we have always had a very strong Rose – the last number of years have been no exception. But because now the Limerick Rose has to go to the regional finals it seems to have distorted how the Roses are actually picked,” said the Ballyneety resident who was the chairperson of the judging panel in Limerick for almost 20 years.
“I think it has affected the quality of the Roses who have gone to Tralee. I think the Rose selections seem to have been diluted. I would have quite a problem with the fact that the Dublin Rose and the Cork Rose get right of entry and the Limerick centre would be as strong as those centres. I always felt that the Limerick Rose centre warranted right of entry to Tralee as well.”
Well-known auctioneer Pat Kearney of Rooney Auctioneers, who was involved in the Rose of Tralee since 1959 up to recent times, said the Limerick committee gave “tremendous help” to Tralee from the early 1960s.
“I’m surprised Limerick didn’t win more titles because we had excellent girls going down there,” said Mr Kearney who was a leading light in the Limerick Kerryman’s Association.
“The committee work tremendously hard to make sure we get the right girl with the right credentials to go forward to Tralee and every year we had a marvellous girl,” he added. However, he said he was not in support of the action taken by the committee and said they shouldn’t “throw in the towel”.
“I’m sorry that they are taking this action because they shouldn’t be defeatist. You don’t throw in the towel because you have had a few upsets. I wouldn’t agree with that course of action at all. I would continue sending excellent girls down to Tralee. The fact that they are not getting through is not our fault – it’s the fault of the system that’s being employed.”
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