The ‘new rules’ all-inclusive Rose of Tralee is bloomin’ great!

I’d like to give a ‘shout out’ and say a big best of luck to Roscommon Rose, the beautiful Ms. Bernie Ryan, a young lady who I’m certain will do her county proud when she represents the Rossies in this year’s Rose of Tralee festival.

Running across this weekend, the festival – making its return following a two-year Covid-induced break – will see the pretty-as-a-picture ladies, (each one of Irish descent, and hailing from all corners of the world), competing for the big prize, a bespoke tiara, oh, and other ‘stuff’.

I was never a fan of what I call the annual debs-ball-without-the-alcohol, where the ‘lovely and fair’ girlies get to don dresses even the most desperate-wannabe-bridesmaid wouldn’t be seen decomposing in, but, as this festival celebrated its 60th anniversary in a pre-Covid 2019, it’s fair to say, its popularity hasn’t waned whatsoever.

Full disclosure readers: Back in the day when I wrote for the Evening Herald (now The Herald) and worked at RTÉ, I was asked to be a judge at what I used to call ‘the carnival of naffness’. However, channelling their inner Dua Lipa, er ‘new rules’, (but if I have to explain), the organisers have dragged this old-fashioned competition into the 21st century by ‘extending the age up to 29’, allowing ‘married women’ and ‘those who identify as female’ i.e. transgender Roses, to enter, it’s definitely no longer naff!  In fact, you could say, it’s bloomin’ great!

While I personally welcome this bold and progressive move, I’m sure the original all-smiling, all-attentive, pure-as-the-driven-snow cailín deas Mary (she of the Rose of Tralee ditty) would have a thing or two to say about it! I mean, who could ever have imagined this archaic festival, (where no respectable ‘girlie’ dared to break her confirmation pledge), would advance so far from its white-washed-comely-maiden-shepherded-by-her fifth-generation-fled-the-famine Oirish-granny theme, to the modern-day strong, feisty, stand-on-her-own-two-feet-fabulous-kick-ass-woman? Not me, that’s for sure!

Now if only organisers would ditch the ‘male escorts’, (strong, independent Irish women don’t need to be chaperoned), and the sickly-sweet paddywhackery that is Dáithí Ó Sé’s presenting style, I’d be popping open the Pringles, uncorking the vino and plonking myself in front of d’telly for the two nights’ viewing fest!

I’m going a bit off-script here, but while we’re on the subject of out-dated Kerry-based ‘traditions’ I feel I need to address the subject of Puck Fair! Could I ask those who organise Aonach an Phoic (Fair of the He-Goat), to get it into their heads that many people, (me especially), will never, ever visit their county because I believe their disgraceful spectacle of animal cruelty and abuse masquerading as a 400-year-old ‘tradition’ is truly horrific!

While I’m sure this fair has other attractions, (music, story-telling etc.) let me tell you readers, in my opinion, there’s nothing ‘traditional’, ‘entertaining’, ‘amusing’, or ‘culturally liberal’ about the barbaric practice of capturing a helpless wild animal and subjecting it to mindless cruelty by hoisting it 60 feet above ground in searing temperatures.

I must say as a woman, I don’t find anything remotely attractive about any man, nay, some cartoon-like, hyper-masculine boy, so desperate to justify his virility, that he’d resort to forcefully wrangling a poor animal down from MacGillycuddy’s Reeks in the name of ‘fun’, ‘sport’ or ‘heritage’.

But I digress…back to the newly-reformed Rose of Tralee and best of luck to you Bernie, you’re clearly a wonderful role model for young Roscommon ladies; I’m delighted you’re getting the chance to compete in this more tolerant, more inclusive and more diverse celebration of Irish womanhood.

I’ll be cheering for both yourself and my native Dublin Rose, the lovely Claire Connolly.


Giving kids the gift of gardening is innovative, so why aren’t ‘the Greens’ all over it?

With an ever-increasing interest in healthy eating by our young people, (regular readers will know that as a vegan, I follow a plant-based diet), I was delighted to read that social enterprise Grow It Yourself plans to equip all primary schools across Ireland with their own free vegetable garden!

I must stress here that, even though I am vegan, I don’t, nor would I ever, push my food/lifestyle choices on anyone, especially children, because I firmly believe it’s up to parents, and parents alone, to plan and put in place an appropriate diet for their families.

However, I only mention the Grow It Yourself initiative because I believe that not only is this giving kids the gift of gardening, it’s also a wonderful way to educate them around the origins of their food.

In addition, as, according to a report from the World Health Organisation (WHO) obesity has reached epidemic proportions in Ireland with the problem being intensified by the pandemic, growing their own food may also provide young kids with education around portion sizes and the nutritional value of certain produce.

As someone who grew up in a concrete jungle, I genuinely thought the four main food groups were from the take-away, from the freezer, from the deep fat-fryer and from the biscuit tin; in short, everything was pre-packed, boil-in-the-bag, add-salt-to-taste, convenient junk food. To that end I really envy today’s kids who are not only learning, hands-on to grow their own fruit and veg, they’re actually managing to do it!

Well done GIY-ers, what a wonderful way to ignite our next generation’s enthusiasm for sustainability, for nature and for the environment…I’m just wondering why ‘the Greens’ aren’t all over this!


The Government needs to step up and stop sacrificing our seniors!

According to figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), Irish people’s life expectancy is up ’22 years in the past 10 decades’. Great news! In fact folks, in an increasingly aging population this means men are living up to 79.6 years, with women faring that bit better by living up to 82.5 years.

However, if you’re a woman living in County Roscommon, you can look forward to a life expectancy of up to 84.5 years, meaning moving to this county could potentially add years to your life. On the other hand, if you were to move, say to, counties Limerick, Tipperary or Clare, you could, according to the report, ‘have a slightly lower life expectancy’. So you get it, move to Roscommon and thrive!

However, and I hate to put a downer on this wonderful bit of positive PR for our county, but, (there’s always a ‘but’), given reports regarding the ever-increasing cost of living, I have to ask, can we afford to, well, hang around for that long?

If you’re to believe policy specialist at Age Action Nat O’Connor, (and I do), who says ‘by December, the full rate contributory state pension will have lost at least €22.61 per week in spending power’, it’s clear that all we’ve got to look forward to is an extended life mired by poverty!

It’s also clear that those seniors who depend on the state pension as their core income will not be able to afford essentials (not talking luxuries here), like food, heating, a drop of petrol or diesel for their car so they can get out and about and medical costs etc.

The quote, ‘the true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members’ has been attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, (although apparently it can’t be found in any of his speeches), but you get my drift…Ireland needs to get with the programme and stop ignoring its seniors! In short, the time has come for Micheál, Leo, Eamon and their cronies to step up and stop sacrificing our elderly!

I’m only speculating here, but I’m assuming our Budget will contain sweeping spending packages containing millions, nay billions, being set aside for humanitarian support, and that’s absolutely wonderful; I wouldn’t have it any other way, we must always provide help for those who need it.  That being said though, that help should never come at a cost to those who built this nation, i.e. our senior citizens; our precious pensioners!