“I met someone on a random Friday night, as millions of people do, and instantly connected with her.

But Walsh believes that attitudes to the festival’s women are progressing - the overwhelmingly positive, although completely frenzied, response to her sexuality is proof.

Yet people in Tralee tell me there are many who privately think she should not have won.

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.

From a festival steeped in tradition and stuffed with sentimentality, there has emerged a powerful, influential new role model.

And while Walsh is full of praise for the festival organisers, who barely raised an eyebrow when they found out she was gay, there have been comments in the press hinting that she wouldn’t have won the title had they known beforehand.

Despite this, Walsh claims her sexuality was never a secret - she simply wasn’t asked about it.

Maria Walsh is sitting in a Dublin hotel after a long day of interviews with the Irish press.

The night before, she appeared as a guest on Ireland’s Late Late Show, the country’s longest-running chat programme.

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.

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