Rose of Tralee protester says this is the "first of many" Irish demonstrations

Matt O'Connor says the position of separated fathers is "a national scandal"

Rose of Tralee protester says this is the "first of many" Irish demonstrations

Founder Matt O'Connor | Image via @F4JIreland on Twitter

A man who disrupted the opening night of the Rose of Tralee contest yesterday says his group plan to hold several other protests.

Matt O'Connor is the founder of Fathers 4 Justice - a British group seeking to bring international awareness to an "anti-family judicial system".

Mr O'Connor, whose family hail from Co Kerry, says he does not regret his stand last night, which saw him jump on stage as the Cavan Rose spoke to host Dáithí Ó Sé.

He says he had been planning the protest for "a couple of weeks".

"The issue of fatherlessness and 100,000 children who are partitioned from their dads in Ireland is a taboo subject," he told Newstalk Lunchtime.

"There's been a wall of silence about the issue in the media, particularly on RTÉ, it's an issue that's hiding in the shadows of Irish society and we wanted to bring it to public attention on a national platform."

"We've had quite a bit of support... our aim is to raise awareness about a very serious, social issue.

"The contest itself - the Rose of Tralee - has widely been panned as being a sexist and outdated beauty pageant; but it's an issue that we thought needed to be aired and it's the first of many protests we're going to be staging across Ireland."

Asked about disrupting the turn of Cavan Rose Lisa O'Reilly on the stage, Mr O'Connor said: "Lets put it in context - it's a beauty pageant, not somebody's holy communion.

"But I was told - and I hope it's the case - that she carried on, the show carried on...and fair play to her."

Asked about being dragged off stage, he said: "I think dragged is probably an understatement - it's a matter in fact we're taking legal advice on."

Mr O'Connor added that the gardaí "were great, they were fine", adding that he was not arrested.

Asked if he wished to apologise to Ms O'Reilly, he said: "Apology's the right word - obviously nobody wants to disrupt anybody's evening, but we have to put it in the context of what we campaign for (which is) a very, very serious issue."

"I think it will be judged to be a effective protest," he added.