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Former Rose of Tralee swaps tiara for a rifle in appeal for more female soldiers

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Former Rose of Tralee and MEP Candidate Trooper Maria Walsh  attenda a military parade commemorating the 90th Anniversary of the foundation of Reserve Defence Forces

Former Rose of Tralee and MEP Candidate Trooper Maria Walsh attenda a military parade commemorating the 90th Anniversary of the foundation of Reserve Defence Forces

Former Rose of Tralee and MEP Candidate Trooper Maria Walsh attenda a military parade commemorating the 90th Anniversary of the foundation of Reserve Defence Forces

Maria Walsh is a real trooper - literally.

The events and media consultant from Co Mayo made history as the first-ever member of the LGBT community to be crowned Rose of Tralee in 2014.

Not only that, she is now understood to be the first Rose in the history of the Defence Forces to swap her tiara for a rifle, as a member of the 1st Armoured Cavalry Squadron based at The Curragh in Co Kildare.

She is also among 236 women who are currently members of the Reserve Defence Forces.

After proudly taking part in her first formal military parade at Dublin's Collins Barracks yesterday to mark the 90th anniversary of the foundation of the volunteer force, the MEP candidate hopes to encourage more women and minorities to follow in her boot steps.

"April is recruitment month, so we're really just trying to make it as diverse as possible. The more women in it, the better diversity," she said.

Benefits

However, it's not just women and minorities that the Defence Forces is hoping to recruit.

Defence Minister Paul Kehoe is hoping employers everywhere will consider members of the Reserve Defence Forces (RDF) as potential employees.

At yesterday's ceremony, he unveiled a new handbook that highlights the benefits to employers of having members of the RDF work for them.

The booklet stresses the unique skills reservists acquire during their military service and training that can be invaluable to the workforce, including leadership, teamwork, and mental and physical agility.

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Former Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh spoke of the need for diversity in the Defence Forces at a parade yesterday

Former Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh spoke of the need for diversity in the Defence Forces at a parade yesterday

Former Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh spoke of the need for diversity in the Defence Forces at a parade yesterday

"Recruitment is currently under way, providing opportunities for young men and women to expand their potential," the minister said.

"New recruits can expect to start with basic military skills encompassing marching, weapons use and tactics.

"They can then progress to mission planning and tactical command; experiencing the many benefits provided by the Defence Forces."

He also thanked more than 200,000 current and deceased members of the RDF for their commitment to the State since the force was founded in 1929.

Among the recent recruits to the force is naval reservist Oluwafemi Ake.

The 30-year-old MBA graduate moved to Ireland on his own from his native Nigeria just four years ago.

Although he gets some affectionate slagging from fellow recruits, he said they have become a second family and he is proud to serve his adopted home.