Published Wednesday, 23 October 2013
Titanic Belfast will be the new host venue of the Miss Ulster beauty contest. (© Pacemaker)
The Miss Ulster competition was supposed to go ahead at Parliament Buildings on Saturday, with two MLAs on the judging panel.
But as a storm blew up over the rules - stating that entrants must be aged 18-24, over 5ft 7ins tall and sized 8-12 - the UUP's Jo-Anne Dobson and the SDLP's Dolores Kelly both withdrew as judges.
Questions had also been raised about the suitability of Stormont as a venue, with a number of MLAs criticising the event as "discriminatory".
Organiser Michelle McTernan defended the contest and, on Wednesday, confirmed it had been rearranged to still be held on Saturday but at Titanic Belfast.
"It is only fair to allow the MLAs of Stormont to concentrate on these more pressing matters that are of public concern and allow the 14 entrants of the competition, the retailers, sponsors and fashion students involved to enjoy the event and the openings that it will provide for them," she said.
I'm sure that despite their own 'will I, won't I?' position on Miss Ulster, our MLAs would also recognise these women's freedom to make that choice and live their lives as they want to.
Michelle McTernan, Miss Ulster organiser
Among the critics of the beauty contest was DUP Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster, who likened it to the Lovely Girls competition from Father Ted and added that such events impacted on the self-esteem of young women.
Sinn Féin MLA Megan Fearon also claimed the situation was embarrassing, while Alliance MLA Anna Lo said the contest was superficial.
Ms McTernan again stressed that the competition is about choice.
"It's worth pointing out that many young women choose to enter the contest," she said.
"The shrill arguments from feminists tend to overlook the fact that many intelligent and ambitious young women freely take this decision because it is something they want to do, enjoy and indeed often see as a career path too."
She added: "To listen to some of the recent comments and contributions on Miss Ulster, one would think that the fashion and beauty industry was all about making people feel bad - when, in fact, the opposite is true."
In a statement about the change of venue, a Titanic Belfast spokesman said: "Miss Ulster is a private event being held in Titanic Belfast and therefore Titanic Belfast is not able to comment further."
© UTV News