Wiwibloggs continues our new series looking at all the countries currently competing in the Eurovision Song Contest and why we love them — for all the right (and sometimes wrong) reasons. Today we land in the fair city of Dublin, the city that has hosted the Eurovision Song Contest more than any other.
Ireland was one of the most successful countries taking part in Eurovision over the last century, winning the contest seven times. Unfortunately to many, it seemed like Ireland never wanted to leave the successful nineties behind, resulting in their entries being called “dated” and “old-fashioned” by some Eurovision fans in the Noughties. Luckily they have copped on and we finally saw the Emerald Isle in the final again in Lisbon when Ryan O’Shaugnessy qualified with his song “Together”. That’s reason enough to let you know why we love Ireland at the Eurovision Song Contest.
1. Ryan O’Shaughnessy represented a modern Ireland in which everyone is allowed to love (and fall out of love) with each other
When Ireland first participated in the contest in 1965, the country was conservative, Catholic and poor. The rights of LGBT people — and indeed women more generally — were especially limited in those days. But in recent years Ireland has made huge (and very progressive) strides. On the day of the grand final in 2015, marriage equality was legalised through a popular vote. While “Together” dealt with the heartbreak of a relationship, the music video was centred around two young men being in love before breaking up. Ireland also brought this theme to Lisbon, involving two storylines on stage: one between the female pianist and Ryan and the other between the two male dancers.
2. They made hosting Eurovision in a rural area work
After Ireland won its third Eurovision in 1992, many thought that the capital city Dublin would host the following year. But Noel C. Duggan — the owner of the Green Glens Arena — saw an opportunity for his stadium. After convincing RTÉ, his venue — which was used primarily for equestrian events — was chosen to host the contest.
Doesn’t sound like a bad idea… until you discover that the venue was located in a small town called Millstreet in one of the most remote parts of Ireland. The only way to reach the village was a three-hour car journey or four-hour train trip from Dublin or by taking another flight to Cork. Though with a lot of local and governmental support they made it work.
3. Betting is big business for the Irish and we enjoy it too
You can’t watch Eurovision without hearing about the bookmakers and their predictions of who is going to win. Some hate it, but it’s no secret that a lot of Eurovision fans take a gamble with the many Dublin-based betting agencies. Paddy has the Power!
4. Legendary interval acts
The interval acts at Irish-hosted Eurovisions centred around showcasing local talent, including the performances of the Hothouse Flowers in 1988 and the biggest boyband at the time, Boyzone, in 1997. However, the interval act in 1994 was the most iconic of them all. It was the year the traditional Irish theatre show and dancing group Riverdance debuted. Their performance got a standing ovation and the success of their interval act contributed to them being able to tour the world. They were the only interval act to make it to the Eurovision Greatest Hits show in 2015. Riverdance is still going strong — their name is branded on Dublin Bus as part of a promotion for their current show.
5. Eurosong served drama and everyone could understand it
Drama and Eurovision are nearly synonymous. Whereas in other countries you just hear screaming in an unfamiliar language, Eurovision fans could follow along with everything that happened during the Irish selection show Eurosong. During the show’s 2014 edition, mentor Billy McGuinness expressed his dissatisfaction at Louis Walsh’s involvement as a panellist, due to his connection with Eoghan Quigg and eventual winner Kasey Smith. After his mentored act performed, Linda Martin jumped to Louis Walsh’ defence, calling Billy McGuinness a “gobshite” and an “odious little man” — a quote Eurovision fans will always remember.
6. They gave us the only non-human act to represent a country
2008 was the first year in which the use of living animals was prohibited at the Eurovision Song Contest after Bosnian singer Laka wanted to bring a chicken on stage. But Ireland sent Dustin the Turkey. The puppet had been going strong on Irish and British television since 1989 and is known for his various attempts outside of the studio to throw a big troll act. After a political career, Dustin set his eye on singing at Eurovision, which would turn into “Irlande Douze Points”, an unsuccessful novelty attempt which stayed in the semi.
7. Jedward dared to go bright and bold with the LED
There had been LED screens at Eurovision before, but Germany’s in 2011 was big. It measured an impressive 60 metres by 18 metres. Ireland thought this was the perfect opportunity to really put the LED wall to work, with a bold red twin-tastic backdrop for Jedward. Since then, the LED has played a more important role in Eurovision performances. A fifth of all acts in Kyiv in 2017 used their faces and bodies on the LED wall — just like Jedward did years earlier.
8. All great Eurovision commentators were and are Irish
“Back off Brits, Terry Wogan and Graham Norton are ours.” It’s something you might hear from fanatic Irish Eurovision fans. Although fellow wiwiblogger Lucy named Graham Norton as one of the 10 Reason why we love the United Kingdom at the Eurovision Song Contest, he is undeniably Irish, as he was born and grew up in Ireland. The late Sir Terry Wogan even has his own statue in his place of birth, Limerick. Let’s not forget Marty Whelan himself, who’s been in charge of the Irish commentary for over 20 years now.
9. Their beautiful ballads
In fact, all of their winning entries went adagio rather than allegro, starting with Dana’s “All Kinds of Everything”. Even these days, the Irish love to choose a good ballad — including “Together” in 2018, “Dying to Try” in 2017 and “Playing With Numbers” in 2015. Johnny Logan was a ballad-writing master as he wrote both Linda Martin‘s ballads “Why me?” and “Terminal 3” as well as his second winning song “Hold Me Now“. The Irish are very proud of his legacy.
Especially in the nineties they played their ballad game well as Niamh Kavanagh‘s ballad “In Your Eyes” was superior to any other ballad in the contest. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Kids” won by a huge margin, while “The Voice” by Eimear Quinn brought us three minutes of magic back in 1996.
10. They really want to win again
It is no surprise anymore that the Irish love Eurovision and, after a 22-year dry spell, they want to bring the contest home again. Over the last two years, RTÉ has hosted a Eurovision Forum, bringing a group of experts, entertainment and music industry professionals, and fans together to discuss what Ireland could or should do to improve the current results. That shows the commitment and the passion for the event that Ireland needs and deserves. We can’t wait to see the results of that in 2019!
Why do you love Ireland at the Eurovision Song Contest? Let us know in the comments below!
Read all our Ireland news here
See all our 10 Reason why we love… here
Picture sources: The Daily Edge, The Sun, The Telegraph, RTE Archives
Co-written by Deven O’Kearney