Only a few days after being stripped of the Miss Ireland title, Máire Hughes has spoken out about the circumstances that led to her crown being unceremoniously taken away maintaining that at all times she acted in accordance with the advice given by representatives of the competition.
In a statement issued on Tuesday night, the 25-year-old part-time model, who was born in Canada but grew up in Knocknacarra and now resides in Athenry, said that it had been suggested to her, more than once at different stages of the competition, to say that she was younger and that her age would not be a significant issue.
Ms Hughes was crowned Miss Ireland at Ballsbridge Hotel on Saturday, April 28, after beating off stiff competition. However, Ms Hughes was later found not to be eligible to represent Ireland at the Miss World contest which takes place in Inner Mongolia, China, in August, because she will be 26 by the time the competition takes place. The title subsequently went to runner-up Miss Wright Venue, Rebecca Maguire, who also landed second place in 2011.
A Miss Ireland spokesperson said of the decision: “Máire Hughes who won the title of Miss Mayo in Castlebar on Saturday, April 21, had a meeting with Miss Ireland organisers after the event on Sunday April 29 to outline her duties and responsibilities as Miss Ireland. At the meeting it transpired that Ms Hughes was 25 on her last birthday but would be 26 going to Inner Mongolia to represent Ireland. Miss Ireland organisers immediately contacted Miss World officials to clarify the rules regarding the age of entrants and unfortunately Ms Hughes does not meet the age criteria. It was with much regret that Miss Ireland organisers informed Ms Hughes of the decision.”
However, according to Ms Hughes, organisers of both the Miss Mayo pageant and the representatives of Miss Ireland had been fully aware of her age. Describing the events at the Miss Mayo competition, Ms Hughes explained: “It was suggested to me at the competition that it might sound better to say I was 24. This suggestion was made in a casual way and I did not attach any great significance to it. I was entering the competition for the fun of it. In fact, the issue of age never arose at all and the event proceeded with all concerned being fully aware of my age.”
The statement went on to explain that Ms Hughes was later sent forms by email on April 25 which contained the rules of eligibility for the Miss Ireland competition. “I did notice that there was an age requirement and I made an enquiry with Miss Ireland representatives. In the course of the telephone conversation I was advised by one of the representatives that this was not a significant issue and that she would deal with it and I should present my age to be younger than what it was.”
Ms Hughes went on to say that during press events and photo calls in Dublin, Miss Ireland representatives had been aware of her age and that she was advised a number of times that her age was not an issue. However, after winning the competition Ms Hughes was informed at a meeting that this was not the case.
“I fully accept that mistakes can be made by anybody, however I, at all times, acted in accordance with advice given to me by the representatives of the event. I entered the event in Mayo initially on a casual basis never expecting any of this controversy to arise. I have no difficulty relinquishing the title of Miss Ireland if that is what the organiser desire and I wish the runner up, Rebecca Maguire, every success in the Miss World competition. I am thankful for all the support I have received... no deliberate attempt was made on my part to mislead the public or the organisers,” said Ms Hughes, who is an employee of the Born clothing store in Galway City.