Chicago native Maggie McEldowney wins 2016 Rose of Tralee

Chicago Rose sees off competition from 32 other finalists to clinch the title

Chicago native Maggie McEldowney wins 2016 Rose of Tralee

Maggie Rose McEldowney with presenter Dáithí Ó Sé | Image: Rose of Tralee via Twitter

Chicago native Maggie Rose McEldowney has been crowned winner of the 2016 Rose of Tralee International Festival. 

The 27-year-old works as the director of development at Chicago's Marist High School. She graduated with a degree in media studies from the University of Illinois in 2011. 

Her grandmother, Brigid O’Neill, was born and raised in Maghera, Co Derry.

Ms McEldowney saw off competition from 64 other Roses to clinch the title on the last night of the two-part TV final.  

The first live show on Monday night sparked debate after the Sydney Rose used the opportunity to call for a referendum on abortion rights. 

Brianna Parkins, a 25-year-old journalist, told presenter Dáithí Ó Sé: "I think we can do better here in Ireland.

"I think it is time to give women a say on their reproductive rights. I would love to see a referendum on the eighth coming up soon.

"That would be my dream."

The broadcast was also interrupted last night when a fathers' rights campaigner invaded the stage. 

The founder of the British-based Fathers 4 Justice group, Matt O'Connor, shouted slogans as he held a poster behind the Cavan Rose, Lisa Reilly. 

He was removed by security personnel before being taken away by gardaí.