The newly-crowned Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh has opened up about her sexuality and revealed that she is gay.
In an interview with the Irish Sun on Sunday, the 27-year-old said: "I'm confident in who I am as a person. To me, being gay is normal. I told my parents and they were supportive, as I knew they would be."
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Walsh moved to Shrule in Mayo 20 years ago but after completing her college education she moved to New York and then on to Philadelphia.
The new Rose of Tralee said that she started a relationship with a woman some years ago. That lasted for two years, but she is currently single.
"I'm not ashamed of my sexuality by any means," she said. "The Rose of Tralee is about celebrating women's intelligence, careers, their volunteer work. The question of sexuality never came up. To me, being gay is normal; it's natural."
In a statement issued Aug 24 via Twitter, The Rose of Tralee International Executive Chair Anthony O'Gara, commented:
“We are delighted that Maria was chosen as the Rose of Tralee. She is a wonderful person, an attractive intelligent woman and a very worthy winner who happens to be gay.
"Her sexuality will no doubt create some interest, hopefully all positive. She wants to be celebrated as Maria Walsh in the complete sense of her person and hopefully everyone will respect that.”
Our new @RoseofTralee_ Maria Walsh is a wonderful representative for both the festival and young women everywhere.— Aoibhinn (@aoibhinn_ni_s) August 24, 2014