A contestant in the Rose of Tralee has said she will not take part in the 2022 festival if she is forced to get the Covid-19 vaccine.

Christine Smyth was selected as the Ohio Rose just before this year’s festival was cancelled for a second year in a row because of the ongoing Covid-19 shutdown. She is therefore eligible to take part in the 2022 festival.

However, the Irish dancer told Radio Kerry that she would rather opt out of the internationally renowned competition if taking a Covid-19 vaccine became a requirement to take part in the festival.

Smyth, who has opened her own Irish dance school, named after her late father, says she is “so grateful to be a part of the Cleveland Irish Community”.

She told the radio interview that  “I personally am not vaccinated but I’m happy to have the freedom to make that choice.

“I’m reluctant just because there are so many unknowns currently right now, I know a lot of people who haven’t had any problems, but you hear the other side of the story as well and I feel like once it’s done, it can’t be undone.

“It might look completely different next year,” she said.

“So I think we just have to cross that bridge when we come to it. Health would be my priority. I wouldn’t want to put my own health at risk to partake in something that is so extremely special but I wouldn’t choose that over my own personal health,” she added.

The Ohio Rose said: “My future aspirations are to be an Irish dance teacher, wife, and mother someday.”

The European Medicine Agency has repeatedly said that Covid-19 vaccines authorised for use are safe and effective.