National Press Club

NPC welcomes Irish Rose of Tralee during St. Patricks's Day festivities

March 17, 2014 | By Lorna Aldrich and Tony Culley-Foster |;

The Rose of Tralee visits The National Press Club, March 15, 2014

The Rose of Tralee visits The National Press Club, March 15, 2014

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

The National Press Club welcomed the reigning Rose of Tralee, Haley O'Sullivan, 25, of Dallas, Texas, at a March 15 lunch in the Club's Fourth Estate restaurant. She was selected through contests in communities in Ireland and countries with Irish descendants.

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, with the ending ceremony and selection of the international Rose of Tralee being broadcast countrywide on Irish television and reported globally.

The name of the contest echoes an evocative 19th century ballad about a beautiful woman named Mary from county Kerry, who was described as the Rose of Tralee.

Irish-American NPC member Tony Culley-Foster, along with Senator Mark Daly of Ireland and Bill McCarren, executive director of the Club, organized the event at the NPC for the fifth year. The Rose of Tralee contestants are judged to be "gifted, talented and beautiful, in that order," Culley-Foster said. The winner serves for a year as a "global ambassador for Ireland, North and South."

O'Sullivan, the reigning Rose, 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, also attended the event. While she was adopted by an Italian family, Debueriis 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 her interaction with that age group because "you can motivate them to learn and have fun while they are doing so." But "I am an educator and not their mother," she added.

Her 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. 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," O'Sullivan said.

Donegal television program director Shane Wallace interviewed O'Sullivan, NPC President Emeritus John Cosgrove, and NPC President Myron Belkind on behalf of Donegal TV & the MHz Networks - Today's - IRELAND TV-USA. The interviews will be tape-delayed broadcasts in Ireland, the U.S. and worldwide, and include a special international NPC message from Belkind to journalists in Ireland and the U.S.

The most senior former Club president and the current one described their own Irish heritage. 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 U.S. and settled in Pennsylvania.

Belkind, current president, joked that his father emigrated from Russia in 1912 in a ship that skirted the Irish coast. According to Belkind, his father, who sold insurance to many in the Irish community in Cleveland, Ohio, claimed an Irish connection based on the ship's itinerary. Belkind also said he felt his father had acquired his sense of humor from that brief encounter with Ireland.