He’s been the Irish voice of Eurovision for close to two decades. But, after four consecutive years of an Ireland-free final, Marty Whelan — RTÉ’s commentator — isn’t happy. In fact, speaking to The Herald, he says he finds the whole situation “very upsetting”. To further compound his misery, he maintains Ireland is “doing nothing wrong” when it comes to the contest — zero, zilch, nada!
— Marty Whelan (@martylyricfm) May 10, 2017
Despite his lengthy tenure in the commentary booth, the radio and TV host remains flummoxed by the unpredictable nature of Europe’s favourite music show. To his mind, Salvador’s win was an anomaly, while the likes of Jamala, Måns Zelmerlöw and Conchita Wurst owe their victories to “pyrotechnics and dancers and mini-skirts and shouting”. Unfortunately we don’t know Marty’s thoughts on the use of candy stripe balloons, oily half-naked drummers and water features.
“We’re doing the best we can. There’s nothing wrong with it. This year, you could say, ‘How could a song from Portugal, sung in Portuguese – how could it win? But the song was gorgeous and it won. That doesn’t normally happen. Normally it’s pyrotechnics and dancers and mini-skirts and shouting and roaring. It wasn’t that this year, it was different… So you just try and send the best you can”.
There’s a saying — if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Yet, in spite of his assertion that there’s nothing wrong with RTÉ’s approach to Eurovision, Marty’s not averse to floating a few alternative ideas.
“Maybe it’s time for a National Song contest again, maybe it isn’t” or “Maybe we need to make a song ourselves and those of us who have an involvement over the years need to sit in a room and have a conversation”.
Or maybe we should leave the veteran broadcaster to his maybes and stick with Nicky Byrne’s suggestion — call in wiwibloggs!
For the moment, we can only speculate on Ireland’s intentions for 2018. The powers that be are due to meet in the coming weeks, and only then will the current process be reviewed and any new plans implemented.
“We’re having a meeting in a few weeks’ time about it. But the point is, we can have meetings till we’re blue in the face but all we can do is have a plan. It doesn’t mean it’s going to work… It just means, ‘here’s another idea.’ Brendan was good this year and the song was decent. But it didn’t get through. It’s four years in a row and we don’t need that again. We need to be in the final so we’re just going to see if we can come up with another formula.”
Ireland at Eurovision 2017 — the fallout
Marty Whelan might think nothing’s wrong — even if he is looking for another formula — but the presenter is in the minority.
In the aftermath of Eurovision 2017, Ireland’s leading media outlets were highly critical of RTÉ and, more specifically, the team that chose its song.
The Irish Mirror branded “Dying To Try” forgettable, questioning the musical savvy of the “somewhat shadowy sect” who make up the Irish delegation.
“Eurovision has become an annual competition we now soullessly slog along through, awaiting the inevitable. Failure.”
The Irish Independent also blamed RTÉ for Ireland’s “embarrassing run of Eurovision failures”. The paper hit out at the broadcaster’s selection method, and urged it to look north and seek inspiration from Sweden’s Melodifestivalen. While acknowledging that such a large-scale show wouldn’t work in the Irish market, the writer highlights the importance of record label involvement.
The Irish Times argued that “the mysterious cabal” who picked Ireland’s “plodding, tepid ballad” must be held accountable. Much of the blame is attributed to the lack of fun — “there was no levity, no spark, he failed to soar and could only plough through an unnecessary key change in his balloon of doom.”
The “national disgrace” — as The Irish Times labelled it — even made it as far as the houses of parliament. Fianna Fáil, the biggest opposition party, called for a fundamental review of Ireland’s approach to the pan-European spectacular.
In the midst of the furore, early noughties pop princess Samantha Mumba and Ireland’s infamous 2008 act Dustin the Turkey have both thrown their names into the mix for 2018.
What do you think? Are you in agreement with Marty? What is the reason for Ireland’s string of bad results? And how can they rectify things for 2018? Let us know in the comments below.