Ireland – the most successful country ever at Eurovision (we all know the stats, no need to brag) – has had a rough time recently. Since the introduction of the semi-finals, it has failed to qualify on four occasions and has otherwise mostly graced the right-hand side of the scoreboard. With the notable exception of Jedward in 2011, Ireland’s entries from the early noughties until today have come across as lacklustre – or even lazy – attempts at reclaiming the Eurovision crown which sat atop their ginger heads almost perpetually during the nineties.

Public Interest

So what happened? After so much past glory, why can’t we pick a decent song? Before the Jedwardian success, popular opinion here (as in the UK) was that Eurovision had become all about bloc voting and novelty acts, with only so-called “new” countries taking the title. This is no longer the case. When those crazy twins earned Ireland its first 12 points since 1997, there was a surge of interest in Eurovision amongst the Irish public. Things seemed to be looking up.

Alas, it was not to be, and Ireland has fallen back down the scoreboard (or off it altogether). A weak effort from the national broadcaster, RTÉ, due to a lack of public interest can’t be blamed for their recent string of disasters. 402,000 (out of 4.5 million) Irish people’s hopes were crushed when Can-Linn and Kasey Smith crashed out of the contest on May 8th. However, unlike in years gone by, this year bloc voting was not blamed for Ireland’s misery. It was generally agreed that the Irish delegation was at fault for not improving the production. After the contest it was even announced that Ireland’s selection process will be reconsidered. In light of this acceptance of failure and desire for success, what is it about the previous dozen or so Irish entries that failed to win votes? Can Ireland ever claw its way back to the top?

It’s The Economy, Stupid

It would appear that at the root of the problem lies the economic crash of 2008. Post-Celtic Tiger, RTÉ’s Eurovision budget is small, so it simply cannot afford to stage an extravagant national final or do much promotional touring before Eurovision. Elaborate staging, stylish outfits and slick choreography all cost money, money which the broadcaster must spend elsewhere. However, RTÉ’s budget should not necessarily be a problem. A good song sung well, with simple yet clever staging can go far, like The Netherlands’ Common Linnets this year. Furthermore, a costly national final is not essential for finding a song with winning potential, both of this year’s top two entries (among others) were chosen internally.

Bye Bye Eurosong

Few would contest the fact that Eurosong needs to go. I don’t have a problem with the current mentor process as it has produced some good songs. But as a platform for showcasing the Irish entry, Eurosong fails miserably. The Late Late Show set is not suitable for a musical performance and virtually every potential entry comes across as amateurish and ill-prepared on the cramped stage, which the rest of Europe likely interprets as a lack of Irish interest in Eurovision. Not exactly a great start to a Eurovision campaign, right?

Presentation Is Key

In my opinion (which I spout furiously to anyone who shows the remotest sign of interest), it is the presentation, or lack thereof, of its entries which lets Ireland down. Recently it seems like no effort has been made with presentation, as if nobody on the Irish team is actually bothered about the song’s visual aspect. I’m not calling for an elaborate set with parachutes, hamster wheels and whatnot, I simply think that some thought should be put into the staging in order to create something memorable yet sincere, and not a glimpse into the innermost thoughts of a hallucinogenic leprechaun, as per usual.

Thoughtfully adapting a performance from the The Late Late Show set to the vast Eurovision stage is vitally important. Like feisty Linda Martin, I disliked the dancers at the Eurosong performance of “Heartbeat” this year and presumed that they would be dumped before Copenhagen. Unfortunately, the powers that be thought otherwise, showing that Ireland’s current method does not work. Six people are not always needed on stage, and Ireland’s approach over the last few years has been lazy and repetitive (singer + two backing singers + two dancers + musician). Change it up each time guys, have backing singers/dancers if necessary, see what fits the vibe of the song, don’t just fill the stage because you can. Seriously Ireland, PRESENTATION.

Remember, It’s A Song Contest

Obviously, in a song contest, the song is pretty damn important and in terms of style at least, Ireland has in fact sent all kinds of everything (see what I did there?) in the hopes of getting some votes. It has been acknowledged that shoving generic Irishness (Dervish, Ryan Dolan, Can Linn) down Europe’s throat does not work, nor does comedy with Dustin the Turkey (an atrocity I will never forgive). Brian Kennedy’s ballad melted hearts, Niamh Kavanagh’s refroze them. Only Jedward had success with an up-tempo song, while Sinéad Mulvey and Donna and Joe fell in the semis. Looking back, all of Ireland’s past wins were ballads, with simple, gimmick-free productions. Although “The Voice” by Eimear Quinn (my personal favourite of the Irish winners) played upon its Irishness, it seemed entirely natural, unlike recent attempts.

http://youtu.be/rj345GYAG1k

Everything else aside, it goes without saying that a talented singer with unique charisma is at the heart of a successful performance. Singing live in front of millions is incredibly daunting (or so I’ve heard) and conveying a sense of personality on top of stellar vocals is something that the recent Irish entries have simply not done.

What Next?

So can Ireland redeem itself? Is maith an scéalaí an aimsir (or only time will tell for you English-speaking folk). Revamped Eurosong or not, the focus should be on finding the right song and singer, then developing and perfecting how the entry is going to be presented. A bit more effort needs to be made, the typical Irish “feck it, we’ll see what happens” attitude needs to go. Much like the Netherlands has of late utilised its ability to produce simple yet mesmerizing entries, Ireland needs to discover what it does best and run with it.

Photo: EBU (Andrea Putting)

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Deven O'Kearney
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Deven O'Kearney

Hozier could really do well for Ireland if we send him next year. If he has a good, strong, original song with simple (yet clever) staging, we could very well win in 2015. I am listening to ”Someone New” right as I type and I am telling you now, his talent is phenomenal. Is it any wonder that he is so big in America and he is very likely to go global. Plus to make matters even better, he is Irish. 😀

COME ON IRELAND, IF YOU WANT DUBLIN 2016, LET’S SEND HOZIER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Lucretia
Guest
Lucretia

I mean find a different website or blog. Your plan should have its own place, whereas the comments on this website should be for discussing the article itself. People go through the comments looking for relevant commentary, not the musings of someone else that is quite frankly off-topic.

Deven O'Kearney
Guest
Deven O'Kearney

Do you know what, I actually think Ireland has a good chance at winning next year. Hopefully, RTE will live up to my expectations. For now, internally selecting an act like Hozier is the way to go in terms of winning.

If Hozier does represent Ireland, all he needs to do is have a really good, well staged song and promote it really well and he could guarantee success for Ireland.

Lucretia
Guest
Lucretia

@Deven, but you shouldn’t be facilitating the discussion. That is the responsibility of the Wiwibloggers, and you hijacking the comments is kind of rude. I do respect your right to elaborately plan out this spectacle, but maybe a different forum or means would be best?

Deven O'Kearney
Guest
Deven O'Kearney

Here are some of my ideas for taglines if Ireland wins:

What do you think of,

1. Share the Luck
2. Cead Mile Failte
3. United We Stand
4. Unbreakable

Just a few ideas.

Deven O'Kearney
Guest
Deven O'Kearney

I just want to know people’s opinions Lucretia. People like to know these things. No big deal. 🙂

Hopefully Ireland will win Eurovision 2015 and we can host Dublin 2016.

Just in case it happens:

Venue (Some Ideas):

The O2 Dublin (11,000 people)
The Aviva Stadium (50,000 people)
Odyssey Arena, Belfast (10,000 people)

Some ideas for Presenters:

Deven O’Kearney (Dream on to me! RTE would never hire an amateur 17 going on 18 year old Kristian Luuk to host ESC. )
Kathryn Thomas
Amanda Byram
Eoghan McDermott
Derek Mooney
Daithi O’Se (Irish Nikolaj Koppel)
Robert Sheehan
Laura Whitmore

Executive Supervisor: Jon Ola Sand
Executive Producer: Michael Kealy

Lucretia
Guest
Lucretia

@Deven: I don’t understand why you’re telling people to leave comments on a blog that is not yours… Seems very odd.

Deven O'Kearney
Guest
Deven O'Kearney

There are alot of excuses for Ireland’s downfall in Eurovision. I will list the 2 most common ones. 1. Money Problems 2. Bloc Voting Here is my take on these excuses. 1. Money Problems: I can accept that RTE is a public broadcaster that is struggling financially. But what I cannot take is the excuse that RTE cannot try at Eurovision because of money issues. Look at Greece, they are in the same competition, statistically the same wealthy prospects as Ireland and even worse money problems. But yet, they place in the top 10 most years and that is down… Read more »

Deven O'Kearney
Guest
Deven O'Kearney

@IrishESCfan I disagree, if any country cannot be trusted to host Eurovision it is Azerbaijan or Russia in terms of human rights, they are like China (Like Azerbaijan, China has an appalling human rights record.). Yeah, I didn’t read the full article in Spain on Tuesday night. I was with my friend from Trondheim and I was having too much fun. We trashed the lobby looking for his headphones in the games room. I had a great holiday alltogether. I met Marco Mengoni (NOT REALLY. His name is Alfonso, he is Italian and looks like Marco.) and a friend of… Read more »

IrishESCfan
Guest
IrishESCfan

Tbh I wouldn’t trust Ireland to organise a good Eurovision show after this Garth Brooks fiasco!

marklebron
Guest
marklebron

The song sound like a demo of what the actual song should’ve been like. This could’ve been amazing.

Alex
Guest
Alex

Why focus so much on the peripherals? Just examine the fundamentals: singing ability and song composition. Kasey Smith had a very nerve-ridden vocal performance, and Ryan Dolan was singing at a key a bit too high for his voice to sound full. (I read all the time claims that he messed up the jury rehearsal, but I’ve never really looked to verify that myself.) Meanwhile, “Heartbeat” may have sounded too familiar to the audience. When you use the chord progression of the chorus of “Only Teardrops” (albeit with the chords more spaced out) and keep your song in the same… Read more »

Ranting Ruby
Guest
Ranting Ruby

Oh fer Chrissakes – the reason Ireland has been bombing in recent years is because they haven’t provided a proper SONG! Give us something you can SING! It’s not about poverty – it’s about melody! Get out that national symbol (the harp) and put together a real delicious hummable singable TUNE! Keep it simple! Go back to ballads if you have to! (for example, that bland bit of nothing between the bridge and the chorus of “Heartbeat” could’ve been SO much more interesting if anyone had applied an ounce of musicality). Just stop being seduced by presentation and focus on… Read more »

Vladimir
Guest
Vladimir

I think Nikki Kavanagh would be a great choice for Ireland. She’s a charismatic performer with an amazing voice.

David
Guest
David

I do not buy the money argument. If they bother sending an entry they should pay for the entries clothes etc… And they do.

I think it comes down to.. In irelands case.. Stage performance. They need to not have so messy stage acts.. Way too many people on stage…and playing on the Irish theme is so 90s and needs to stop.

And this is not the 90s.. I say dont send dull irish ballads.. Send a good clean modern pop song.. I think Ireland can win again!

Deven O´Kearney
Guest
Deven O´Kearney

I will next reply on Saturday when I am back in Ireland. Please leave comments.

Deven O´Kearney
Guest
Deven O´Kearney

PS: If we win in 2015, we promise a fantastic show in 2016.

Deven O´Kearney
Guest
Deven O´Kearney

Buenos Noches Wiwibloggs. Greetings from Torremolinos, Malaga, Espana. My holiday is going very well so far. I have made 2 new friends. Both from Norway. OK, I will cut to the chase now. First of, I don´t care what anyone says about the ratings, the Eurovision Song Contest is hugely popular in Ireland. 402,000 people watched the 2nd semi final this year. But that was on RTE. Think of the people who watched it on BBC as well. Secondly, I agree that RTE still think that they can look to the 90´s and they will win. You cannot do that.… Read more »

Robyn Gallagher
Editor

Jedward’s staging from 2011 was an example of getting it right. As usual, there was no money for anything fancy. They went with simple but strong stage choreography, (including the “OMG, they’re twins” opening) and a bold animated backdrop made using outtakes from Jedward’s “All the Small Things” music video. And even though there were six performers on stage, the backing singers were kept at the back, leaving Jedward to steal the show. I reckon RTE has this idea that Ireland is somehow always lucky with Eurovision so therefore they don’t need to make much of an effort. Except they… Read more »

E
Guest
E

I really agree with the staging problem. The two regent years I havet really liked Ireland preshow bit the staging has ruined everything for me. In both cases the video has been good for the song bit the staging vad seem like a a student project for a secret act

Jak
Guest

I really like Ireland before the contest. In the semi-final night, Casey looked like a cow, and yes, even I’d sing her song better than she.

You don’t need a national final, Ireland. This is a song contest. And if you would give us Hozier… I really want to see him as a winner in Austria.

Please no more Jedward, turkeys or ex-Soviet style girls.

SEND HOZIER IRELAND.

Branko
Guest
Branko

Do not see any problems with Ireland this year? I thought they would have qualified with televoting only and only the juries saw them in the bottom!

Martin Palmer
Guest

One of the main reasons for Irish (and UK, for that matter) success was the language rule – everyone singing only in their official language gave Ireland a huge advantage in the 1990s. Another reason is simply that the number of countries has increased – unlike the UK with its guaranteed Final spot, Ireland now has to compete with 15-16 others in the SF in addition to 25 others in the Final. More competition, more chances of a poor or mediocre song not even making the Final. The standard of entries has decreased too – maybe Eurovision doesn’t hold the… Read more »

Ian Charlton
Guest
Ian Charlton

I think the song feel flat on the night. I liked the song when I first heard it – but the performance when it really had to count – just didnt happen. I also liked a song by a young female performer ( cant remember her name – the song was what he argument was over ) This song may have done better – but who knows. I read comments about changing the song style etc – but I like to think the song reflects the culture of the people – not the culture of the rest of the world.… Read more »

James
Guest
James

It is worth remembering that RTE has an incredibly limited budget and does do rather well with what they have. Still, I do think presentation is their main downfall. In particular, presentation-wise, 2009 and 2014, two potential qualifiers, were killed by a lacklustre stage performance. In the case of 2009 the lighting was all wrong, whilst in the case of 2014 everything was wrong: the lighting, the dancing, the dress. I actually rewatched the Irish 2014 performance the other day and was imagining how much better it would have been if Kasey were wearing a slightly less formal dress, the… Read more »

beccaboo1212
Guest

Sinead Mulvey (2009) for 2015, please!!!!!!!

beccaboo1212
Guest

I have an idea to change the rules for Ireland (from 2015 onwards)

1. The song must NOT have any “Celtic” influences. It must be 100% of the following choices:
*Pop
*Rock
*R&B (?)
*Dance music

2. If you decide to have backup dancers, they must NOT be “river dancers.”

3. Former Irish representatives are ALWAYS welcome to return to the selection. This can ONLY apply for…

*2005
*2008
*2009
*2011
*2012
*2013

And that’s pretty much it 🙂

Timselvision
Guest
Timselvision

I liked Ireland’s national final TBH… It had an Eurovision top, Eurovision quiz, performance from Johnny Logan… And don’t forget the jury-drama 😀

Darren
Guest
Darren

The Corrs, Imelda May, Shane Filan, Lisa Hannigan, Hell even Eoghan Quigg and Nadine Coyle could do it for Ireland if the song was good.

Olivier ROCHER
Guest
Olivier ROCHER

One of the Corrs sisters would be such an obvious choice for Ireland!

Darren
Guest
Darren

Could not agree more! Although, I just dont think the economy has anything to do with Ireland’s Eurovision failures, because from 2000-2008 the economy was flourishing, yet we were still sending rubbish to Europe. The national selection needs to change to focus on the singer, the song-writer and the presentation. The stage of the national selection should be bigger so that we would have an idea about how the song would sound on a big arena stage. The celtic theme needs to go and so too do the backing singers, they are the same backing singers used every year and… Read more »