Two Cork hotels are on a shortlist to host what would be the most contentious child pageant ever staged in this country, The Cork News can reveal. Chiefs of the controversial Texas-based Universal Royal Beauty Pageant were yesterday considering offers from four different hotels across Ireland - including two in Cork - to stage their first-ever contest here in November. Earllier this week it emerged that three separate hoteliers had pulled the plug on hosting a pageant, which would include a contest for babies as young as 11-months and swimwear heats for toddlers, out of fear it would lead to a barrage of protests and ruin their reputations. But organiser Annette Hill said four more hotel bosses, who she said "would stand to make a fortune as there would be up to 300 contestants taking part", had since approached her with offers to stage a contest on their premises. She said yesterday she now felt certain her plans to host what would be the most contentious pageant ever to take place in this country would succeed, adding that she expects to sign a deal in the coming days.
However, the ISPCC yesterday said it was very concerned about the development and worried about the long-term effects on children taking part. And the children's charity's advocacy manager, Mary Nicholson, said parents should give the issue a lot of thought before signing up their kids to the beauty competition. She said: "I'm very concerned, because events like this have a detrimental effect on young children and could be damaging to them. "It's not good for young girls, as young as three, four or five, to be judged on what they look like. It's not the children who want to enter these contests, it's their parents. But children should be allowed to be children. I'd be concerned that this could lead to the early sexualisation of children who take part.
"It's not acceptable and harms the chances of a child growing up to be a well-adjusted person." She added: "I would ask parents to think twice before entering their children into this and be very careful about it."
Once a venue is confirmed, Ms. Hill, aware of the possibility of an angry backlash in this country, says she will keep the location of the pageant a closely-guarded secret and will hire a security team to guard the event. But she said: "Four hotels have approached me and I'm hoping to firm up a deal in the next few days. But our Ireland pageant will definitely be taking place."