Miss Ireland organisers deny they knew winner was too old
Organisers of the Miss Ireland pageant last night claimed they were unaware of the true age of the 2012 winner who lost her title for being "too old".
Miss Mayo, Maire Hughes, who turns 26 later this month, has insisted she made "no deliberate attempt" to mislead the organisers.
Ms Hughes stated they were aware of her true age and she was encouraged to say she was younger than her actual age.
The organisers deny this. Organisers said the title would now pass to the first runner-up Rebecca Maguire (20), from Belfast, who had also been pipped to second place by model Holly Carpenter in 2011.
Ms Maguire said she was shocked to learn of Ms Hughes's departure, but was pleased to have the chance to represent Ireland in the competition
"My heart goes out to Maire. It's a big shock, but I'm delighted. I can't wait to go to China," she said.
Sean Montague, one of the organisers of the pageant, said there were "strict rules" in place for the Miss World franchisees, including that entrants must be 25 or under, never have had children or have been married.
Maire will be 26 by the time the Miss World pageant takes place in China in August.
"We never tell anyone they can go outside the rules," Mr Montague said, adding other potential contestants who did not meet the age criteria had been turned away. "Why would we encourage someone to lie about their age and they would not be eligible to compete?"
Organisers state that Ms Hughes gave an incorrect date of birth on the entry form that would make her 23 by the date of the Miss World competition. Ms Hughes said she noticed there was an age requirement and inquired about it with a Miss Ireland representative.
She claimed to have been informed by phone that it was "not a significant issue" and she should represent her age to be younger than it was.
Former Miss World Rosanna Davison said she wanted to wish Ms Maguire good luck.
However, she said: "It is a real shame for Maire that she has had to give up the crown as I thought she was a deserving winner."