The National Press Club welcomed the reigning Rose of Tralee, Haley O’Sullivan, 25, of Dallas Texas, who was selected through contests in communities in Ireland and countries with Irish decendants, worldwide, at a March 15 lunch in the Fourth Estate.
The town of Tralee in county Kerry in Southwest Ireland has held an August festival, during which the Rose of Tralee is selected, since 1959. Thirty two finalist Roses attend the festival whose ending ceremony and selection of the international Rose of Tralee is broadcast countrywide on Irish television and reported internationally.
The name of the contest echoes a evocative nineteenth century ballad about a beautiful woman named Mary from county Kerry, who was described as the Rose of Tralee.
According to Irish-American Club Member Tony Culley-Foster, who with Senator Mark Daly of Ireland and Bill McCarren, Club manager, organized the event at the Club for the fifth year, said the Rose of Tralee contestants are judged to be ” gifted, talented and beautiful, in that order.”
The Rose of Tralee winner serves for a year as a “global ambassador for Ireland, North and South,” according to Culley-Foster.
O’Sullivan cited a trip to Belarus on behalf of Adi Roche’s Chernobyl Children’s International Fund as one of the highlights of her year so far.
Lauren Debueriis, 26, the Rose selected in the D.C. competition, attended the event. Debueriis, who was adopted by an Italian family, knew of her biological Irish heritage, and has been connected to her Irish birth mother in recent years.
O’Sullivan, a seventh grade English teacher in Dallas, said she enjoys that age group because “You can motivate them to learn and have fun while they are doing so.” But, she added, “I am an educator and not their mother.”
She appreciates her Irish-American heritage despite her grandfather’s emigration, forced by hardships of the time. “I can go back to the country my family came from and always feel comfortable and accepted there.”
Haley’s grandfather, Joseph O’Sullivan, left his home on Bere Island, off the Southwest coast of Ireland, at age 17 and moved to San Francisco. She has visited her great uncle and other relatives who still live on the island.
Donegal television program director Shane Wallace interviewed O’Sullivan, Club President Emeritus John Cosgrove and Club President Myron Belkind on behalf of on behalf of Donegal TV & the MHz Networks – Today’s – IRELAND TV -USA. The interviews will be tape delayed broadcasts in Ireland, the US and worldwide and include a special international NPC message from President Belkind to journalists in Ireland and the US.
The most senior former Club president and the current one described their own Irish heritage. John Cosgrove, president in 1961, said his Irish ancestors, by the name of Mead, migrated before the mid-nineteenth century famine that sent many Irish immigrants to the United States and settled in Pennsylvania.
Belkin joked that his grandfather emigrated from Russia in 1912 in a ship that skirted the Irish coast. Belkin’s father, who sold insurance to many in the Irish community in Cleveland, Ohio, claimed an Irish connection based on the ship’s itinerary, Belkin said.