2023 was no different to most Eurovision cycles here in Ireland; we said we’d learned from not qualifying last year, we picked a boring, generic song on a lacklustre Late Late Show special and our so-called ‘experts’ – who are completely out of touch with what the contest has become – claimed it was an incredible song that was sure to qualify for the final. Then, when our performance sticks out like a sore thumb compared to countries who invest real time and money into their act, and we fail to qualify, people take to social media to say the whole competition is rigged, and that all of Europe is out to get Ireland.
We hear it every year; “it’s all political anyway,” “the Eastern European countries all just vote for each other,” “they never even give Ireland a chance,” and the dreaded “it’s all because they’re still mad we sent Dustin the Turkey,” as if anyone in Europe remembers a random Irish entry from 2008.
The fact of the matter is: what we send year after year simply isn’t good enough! Ireland has only qualified for the finals once in the last ten years, in 2018 when Ryan O’Shaughnessy performed the brilliant ‘Together’, complete with simple but effective staging that really struck a chord with voters. With the exception of 2015’s ‘Playing with Numbers’ and 2022’s ‘That’s Rich’, none of our failed entries deserved to qualify.
We’ve regularly sent some of the dullest and most forgettable songs of the competition. We fell to all-time lows with 2016’s ‘Sunlight’, 2017’s ‘Dying to Try’ and 2019’s ‘22’. Even when we sent songs that weren’t painful to listen to, they reeked of mediocrity and rightfully failed to reach the final, like 2021’s ‘Maps’, and this years swing and a miss from Wild Youth, ‘We Are One’.
With Sweden’s Loreen tying two of Ireland’s proudly held records this year (most wins of all time with 7 and the only artist to win the contest twice after Johnny Logan) it’s time for us to cop ourselves on and get serious about competing.
For such a small country we produce an incredible amount of top-quality music that impresses audiences at home and across the world. We’re not short on artistic talent by any means, we just choose to ignore what makes us special and try to fit a generic Eurovision mould that the rest of Europe moved on from 15 years ago.
While Ireland’s drab entry lost out in the last set of Eurovision’s semi-finals, all of the countries who sent a song in their native language went through to the final. Ireland, despite having growing pride in the Irish language, has only sent one song as gaeilge since we joined the Eurovision nearly 60 years ago. It’s mind boggling. We have a unique language and culture that can’t be replicated by any other country and yet we choose to ignore it.
Despite winning the competition a staggering (and previously record holding) seven times, our most memorable moment in the history of the competition came in 1994 when Riverdance debuted. Our actual entry won that year and yet our half-time entertainment is what people still talk about because it was so unique.
We need to totally transform how we select a song for Eurovision. Get rid of the horrendous Eurosong special and move the national selection to a space where artists can actually stage it – give viewers a taste of how it would look if it were to qualify. Spend more time producing a finished product instead of rushed demos that lack the polish that other countries have with their entries. Other countries send some of their biggest home-grown artists yet many Irish acts are embarrassed to take on the poison chalice.
If RTÉ don’t take the contest seriously, how are our plethora of talented artists meant to do so?
It’s time we stopped whining about how Europe hates us and how we’ll never qualify again and transform our cultural attitudes to the whole competition. Eurovision should be an opportunity budding Irish acts are desperate to do. It should be a platform for us to show off a language an culture that we fought to keep alive for centuries.