With brains, wit and polite charm, Walsh may just be the person who springs to mind when the Irish cast their vote in favour of marriage equality next year.

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Over a million people watched it this year, so it’s almost comical when people say it’s irrelevant or not celebrating women in the right way.” Yet, just days before the festival began, Ireland attracted international indignation when a woman who had been raped was forced to give birth against her will.

As one Irish commentator put it, “womanhood in Ireland remains a strictly policed construct.” Many would argue that the Rose of Tralee only reinforces this view.

Then, at the end of last month, everything changed.

Walsh won one of Ireland’s oldest and most popular festivals: the Rose of Tralee - a competition to find the ultimate Irish woman, judged on beauty and talent. Just days after she was crowned, Walsh revealed to a newspaper that she was a lesbian.

“My friends think when I hit 50 I’ll have a nervous breakdown because I never had to worry about my inner demons.

I am who I am and I’m extremely proud of who I am.” Yet although Walsh may have won the Rose, the country that crowned her would still deny her the right to marry another woman; same-sex marriage remains illegal in Ireland.

While the festival also judges entrants on their personality and skills, critics say it promotes archaic ideas of 'debutante-like' womanhood: entrants must be unmarried (although the competition only opened its doors to unmarried mothers in 2008). “It’s not just about pretty dresses”, she tells me forcefully.

“It was at the forefront of Irish culture and celebrating women even before its time.

Despite this, some hope that Walsh’s win could influence the outcome of the referendum on same-sex marriage to be held next Spring.