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Sydney Rose is 'disappointed' and 'confused' after festival chair Mary Kennedy condemned abortion comments

“The festival has been out there for years trying to dispel this ‘lovely girl competition’ image…”

SYDNEY ROSE BRIANNA Parkins has said she’s “disappointed” and “confused” after comments made by Mary Kennedy, chair of the judging panel of the Rose of Tralee.

Kennedy told the Irish Independent today that the festival was not the place for Parkins to air her views on abortion, and that it’s not a “political platform”.

The 25-year-old Australian spoke from the stage at the Rose of Tralee on Monday night, saying that it would be her “dream” to see a to see a referendum on the Eighth Amendment in Ireland.

I think we can do better here in Ireland. I think it is time to give women a say on their own reproductive rights.

Her comments sparked debate on social media and resulted in ten complaints to broadcaster RTÉ.

Parkins told DailyEdge that while she respects Mary Kennedy and her protectiveness of the festival…

I do find it disappointing that for a festival that has been out there for years trying to dispel this ‘lovely girl competition’ image and saying that it does empower women and it’s good for women and then to turn around and actually say you can’t have opinions on women’s issues and women’s rights and an opinion over the control of your own body.
I think you can’t have it both ways. It has to be one or the other.

Parkins said she found it a “little confusing” that some Roses had been asked their opinion on abortion in private and that that process had been judged, only for her then to hear that her public interview was not the place to air her views on the subject.

Abortion, immigration and a united Ireland were among the topics Roses were asked about in private judging situations.

Parkins said that while she hadn’t been “gagged” or reprimanded as a result of her actions, she had been informed that she had broken a social media rule, as per the contract all Roses are asked to sign.

“Crazy amount of support”

Parkins said she’s been shown “mostly respect” since her headline-making appearance on Monday night.

Some of her fellow Roses thanked her for making the comments. At a final parade in Tralee yesterday some people had made signs to support her, and a woman approached her with her daughter to ask if they could take a picture with her.

She said that the “crazy amount of support” had made her decision to speak out worthwhile, and thanked people, especially Irish women, for that support.

When I was thrown the question on women’s rights by [host] Dáithí [Ó Sé] I wouldn’t have been proud of herself if I hadn’t spoken up for what I believe in.

She also spoke of potential nervousness for the safety of her friends and family, alluding to death threats that are sometimes associated with those who speak out in favour of abortion. She hasn’t come across anything as serious “yet”, but said that there have been plenty of comments in opposition to her views on social media.

“Very Catholic family”

Parkins – who comes from a “very Catholic family” with a mother and grandmother invested in women’s rights – was inspired to enter the Rose of Tralee when Maria Walsh, who’s gay, won the event in 2014.

She said that she hoped her comments on women’s rights would lead to more openness in the festival.

I would love one day for a girl to get up on that stage and talk about any women’s rights.

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About the author:

Emer McLysaght

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