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The Late Late Show’s presenter, Ryan Tubridy, riled some viewers by asking Walsh’s father in the audience what his ‘concerns’ were.But for Walsh there was no inner struggle, or conflict with her Catholic faith.
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.
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.
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.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.“I met someone on a random Friday night, as millions of people do, and instantly connected with her.And I thought to myself, 'I’m going to be with her'.” Walsh’s family supported her decision, although there were questions about what it would mean for her personal life and career (she has a journalism degree and now works for clothing brand Anthropologie).But there’s certainly a determination to use her newfound fame in a positive way. It’s a hugely powerful message to send to Middle Ireland and the voters who will need to be convinced next Spring.