Racist attacks won’t stop first Afro-Irish Rose of Tralee winner
2018-09-01 16:08:14 -
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By Chinedu Onyejelem

 

As gardaí continue to investigate a racist verbal attack on the newly crowned Rose of Tralee, it has emerged that she was previously subject to racist abuse in Ireland.

Waterford rose Kirsten Mate Maher, who is half-Zambian, is the first Afro-Irish Rose of Tralee and the third rose of mixed race to win since the beauty pageant began in 1959.

Days after she won the 2018 pageant, Maher and her boyfriend were allegedly abused in a fast food restaurant on Kilkenny’s John Street at around 3am by two male customers.

Metro Éireann understands that the Rose of Tralee, who was out socialising with her boyfriend and several others that night, had stopped at the takeaway on their way home when the incident happened.

Gardaí were called when two men were said to have racially abused Maher, whose boyfriend had earlier intervened by asking one of them to stop. Statements were taken from those at the scene.

Although the Garda does not comment on named individuals, statement to Metro Éireann confirmed that it is aware of “an alleged incident” in the early hours of Sunday 26 August, and that “enquiries are going”.

Meanwhile, a member of the Rose of Tralee festival committee confirmed that an incident was reported to gardaí but added that Maher would not be commenting on the issue.

Steve Cronly also said that it was not the first time the new Rose of Tralee – who plans to highlight Irish society’s growing multiculturalism - was subjected to racist abuse.

“It was something she and many others in this country have to deal with on a regular basis,” Cronly told RTÉ news.

Maher, a 21-year-old beauty stylist, was recently offered a place to study Multimedia and Application Development in Waterford Institute of Technology, which she may now defer until the 2019 academic year.

She was full of emotion when she was announced as winner of this year’s pageant on Tuesday 21 August.

“I’m speechless, oh my God,” Maher said. “I just want to say a massive thank you to these girls standing behind me and in front of me.

“I am overwhelmed at the amount of friends that I’ve just made – they’re friends for life.”

Maher also highlighted her shock at winning later on her Instagram account: “I am stunned. It is hard to describe how I feel this morning but I am bursting with pride. To my 56 Rose sisters all I can say is I love each and every one of you. You truly are a fantastic bunch of women.”

In an interview following her win, Maher commented on her background and diversity. “Ireland has changed so much and it’s so much more accepting,” she said. “We’re all mixed and we’re all from different parts of the world.

“I know it’s a little bit more obvious with myself: I’ve curly hair and darker skin,” she told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland. “But at the end of the day we need to see past that and realise there is no typical Irish woman.

“We’re all different and we all come in all shapes and sizes and skin colours and hair and freckles [or] no freckles. We’re such a diverse community, and we need to embrace that.”

Maher is a member of the Ireland Peace Choir and also a devoted hockey player.

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