18-year-old Buncrana woman Lauren McDonagh is the first Miss Ireland from Donegal in almost two decades, and has dedicated her win to her late brother Darren.
Lauren told the Irish Mirror that the news is still sinking in, and that she has dedicated her crown to her late brother Darren who passed away from muscular dystrophy aged 17 when she was just 8.
Her parents presented her with a photograph of Darren just after she was crowned the winner at the lavish ceremony at Dublin’s Crowne Plaza Hotel last night.
“Mammy came up to me with the flowers and she had a wee heart with Darren’s photo in it so it was just so personal,” said student Lauren, who was in tears after her win.
Proud mum Ann says she hopes her daughter will continue to be an ambassador for muscular dystrophy.
“Lauren lost a brother and it’s paramount we discuss muscular dystrophy because it’s rife and anyone with it has a life sentence.
“We so need support for muscular dystrophy and hopefully Lauren will continue to support and be an ambassador for muscular dystrophy and for children with critical illness because we have been there.”
“I am just ecstatic for Donegal. I now have a Miss Ireland in the house but she will stay grounded,” Ann told journalist Jim Gallagher.
Lauren says she wishes that her other two big brothers could be there, but Jason (28) lives in San Francisco, and Kieran (23) was attending a wedding with his girlfriend.
“It still seems unreal but I’m over the moon. All the girls were so lovely, it was like a family which sounds crazy as we have only known each other for such a short time but we have all grown such strong connections. It was anyone’s game.
“I know now that I’m doing Donegal proud and I hope I will do Ireland proud.
“To represent my county was one thing and I was so privileged and honoured to be able to do that but now I’m representing my country in Miss World, it’s so crazy.”
Boyfriend Glen Myles (18) was absolutely over the moon for Lauren, and said he is very proud of her.
“I’m very proud of her. I felt the heart in my mouth when she got to the last three and I just wanted it to be over and done with and know the result,” said Glen.
“I’m over the moon. Lauren is a very honest, very loyal and a generally nice girl. It’s not just looks with her, inside she is a beautiful girl.
“I’m definitely going to get slagged by my friends and there will definitely be plenty of competition from all the other lads but that all comes with it.”
Lauren beamed, “he’s such a dote! We have been going out for 10 months so it is early days yet but he is lovely. He was crying and he never cries.”
Dad Tom couldn’t be happier for his daughter, saying “For my princess to win Miss Ireland – I’m absolutely over the moon.
“It’s 19 years since Donegal won Miss Ireland so we are delighted.”