Married and transgender women can compete in this year’s Rose of Tralee.
The significant change to the competition rules was confirmed by festival chief Anthony O’Gara on Wednesday morning.
Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr O’Gara said transgender women have never been explicitly ruled out from entering the festival, but it had been pointed out to them that “a clear policy stating that trans women are welcome as opposed to just presuming that they feel welcome” was needed.
“It’s important to be proactive in that area and make sure that we reach out to people and make sure that they’re comfortable,” he said.
The maximum age limit has also been increased for this year’s competition, with women aged 29 and under now allowed to compete for the coveted crown. In previous years, the age limit was capped at 28.
Mr O’Gara said the change was a “natural progression”.
“The lifestyle of people is changing, so women are getting married later and having families later … it’s just trying to track what’s happening in society really.”
The €300 sponsorship fee required for entrants based in Ireland has also been reduced to €200 for 2022.
Mr O’Gara said the addition of married or trans women in 2022 would be a “welcome change” for the competition.
The festival has been cancelled for the past two years due to Covid-19 restrictions but Mr O'Gara said he has his “fingers crossed” for 2022.
The festival is scheduled to take place from August 19th to 23rd next year, with 10 events held at a local level leading to a county final.
The Rose of Tralee chief executive also hinted that this year's final is unlikely to be held in the Dome marquee but instead in Munster Technological University (MTU).