Ryan Tubridy is hosting a Late Late Show Eurosong special, on RTÉ One and RTÉ Player at 9.35pm tonight, to choose this year’s Irish entry for the Eurovision Song Contest.
Didn’t Ukraine win last year?
It did, with Kalush’s song Stefania, meaning it would normally have hosted this year’s Eurovision. But, following Ukraine’s invasion by Russia, the UK, which came second, will instead host the event on behalf of the war-torn country. The semi-finals will take place on Tuesday, May 9th, and Thursday, May 11th, with the final following two days later; all three will be at the 11,000-seat Liverpool Arena. Russia will not be participating.
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What’s new this time around?
At a European level, the national juries have been scrapped for the semi-finals, meaning only viewers at home will decide who gets through to the final. The European Broadcasting Union, which organises Eurovision, will also allow online voting by people living in countries not taking part in the contest.
Here in Ireland, at this stage of the competition, the public can once again vote for their favourite. Last year was the first time since 2015 that the Irish public had a say in selecting the act. For 2023 Ireland’s entry will be decided by a studio jury, an international jury, and the public vote. Each will have an equal say.
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“I think the public have a right to be part of it,” says the broadcaster Marty Whelan, RTÉ’s long-time Eurovision commentator. “I think it’s wonderful that they have a say – not the full say, but a say. It’s very democratic. Everybody then has an opportunity to make it. I think, without that, it’s not the wonderful event I know it to be.”
Who’s hoping to represent Ireland?
There are six acts competing for the chance to represent Ireland at Eurovision 2023.
ADGY, Too Good For Your Love;
Connolly, Midnight Summer Night
Wild Youth, We Are One
Leila Jane, Wild
K Muni & ND, Down in the Rain
Public Image Ltd, Hawaii
Public Image Ltd are the highest-profile act. John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, formed the band in 1978 after leaving the Sex Pistols. Their entry is a tribute to Lydon’s dying wife, Nora Forster.
“I wrote a song that I wanted to be absolutely poignant about the catastrophe my wife is going through,” says the singer, whose parents were both Irish. “I think I’ve succeeded. I’m not sure ... If we could bring to the forefront Alzheimer’s being such a debilitating disease ... It is the saddest thing of all to watch the slow, slow deterioration and demise of someone you have loved for 45 years.
What was his wife’s reaction when he played her the song? “She understood it very, very deeply. Hawaii isn’t the only place of significance to us, but that was the one I picked out. It’s very, very tear-jerking for me to even talk about it ... I’m even shaking now thinking about it, because it means the world to me. These are the last few years of coherence together, and I miss her like mad.”
Does he still get nervous about doing things like this? “Yeah, terrified. Terrified of mugging it up, getting it wrong, letting people down. Mostly letting Nora down. My mum and dad would be ever so chuffed. In many ways they’re with me right now,” he said, emotionally.
Who’s the favourite?
Public Image Ltd are in for some fierce competition.
The underdogs of the night are the Longford lads K Muni & ND. Despite an uphill climb if the bookies are anything to go by, the pair are already planning their stage performance of their rap song in Liverpool. “Music basically started for us in secondary school,” says K Muni, aka 21-year-old Kofi Appiah.
“We were just playing around in the canteen, banging the tables, freestyling, making diss tracks. And then in 2020 we decided to take it seriously. We dropped a song called Longford Town, and that gave us a platform to continue making music. Locally it was quite popular”.
“It was an anthem really,” adds ND, aka 19-year-old Nevlonne Dampare. The song is “very close to our hearts” and about “persevering and believing in our dreams”.
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The bookies’ favourite is also the youngest contestant: Connolly, aka Jennifer Connolly, an IADT student from Galway who has just turned 19, and whose mum suggested she enter. Her song Midnight Summer Night, which she wrote when she was 17, is turning heads. So now, after only singing at “the odd family wedding”, she’s one performance away from playing in front of 200 million people. Is she surprised to be the favourite? “Yes, very..! I’m really nervous as well, but I am just as excited to have fun and, hopefully, give a good performance.”
How might Ireland do in May?
Given Ireland’s recent record – we’ve failed to qualify for the final for most of the past decade, and came last in our semi-finals in 2019 and 2021 – you might be surprised to hear that Ireland still holds the record for most Eurovision victories, with seven. The last Irish winner was Eimear Quinn, with The Voice in 1996. It was Ireland’s fourth victory in five years.
Ireland haven’t finished in the top 10 since the first of Jedward’s two outings, with Lipstick, in 2011. “Financially, we have saved RTÉ a fortune over the years,” Whelan jokes. But now, says Tubridy, “it’s time to bring it back home.”