It wasn’t always like this. There was a time when we looked forward to the Eurovision with confidence. It was the official start to the summer. Children were allowed to stay up late for The Voting as a reward for having to sit through the music. And it was educational. As a five-year-old, despite not having any formal schooling in the language, I knew how to count to 12 in French (excluding nine and eleven). United Kingdom was ‘WyeO-Mini’. Those were the Eurovision days when the word ‘Ireland’ meant something. We had Johnny Logan. We had Linda Martin, Niamh Kavanagh, The Rock n’Roll Kids, The One With the Celtic Bits In It. The other Europeans quaked when we turned up with our ballads: We are Ireland – Hear Us Warble.
Even after the golden years, we fared respectably – a runner-up spot here, a sixth place there. We were biding our time until RTE had saved up enough money to stage it again. Then we got cocky. We thought we knew it all. We introduced text-voting to let us, the common people, pick the song. What did we know? We were the same common people who elected Fianna Fáil10 years in a row and look where that got us: “Irland – Minus Douze Billion points.”
The apex of this hubris was in 2008 when we picked Dustin the Turkey as our entrant as a kind of post-modern joke. We were just asking for it. And the gods smiled down on us and said– All a bit of a joke is it? Well if that’s the way you want it, here’s your new leader: Brian Cowen.
So with no money left in our pockets and sheepish looks on our faces, we went back this year with what we thought was required – a big ballad about Not-Quite-Sure-What and Niamh Kavanagh to horse it out. And we finished below Moldova.
There are a number of competing theories as to why we did so badly. Some people point to a certain lack of oomph in the performance. She did a fine job but Niamh was naiive in thinking that she could just turn up and ‘sing a song’. Throughout the night it became clear we were suffering from the lack of a Man In A Silk Shirt Dancing Around For No Reason. And would it have hurt to sprout some wings?
Of course lots of countries are voting for their mates. A third of all the dixes and douzes were given to the neighbours. Which explains why the aforementioned Moldova got 10 points from Romania for a song featuring the line “There’s no other time to make, In happiness you have mistaken. We have no progressive future.”
Another clue to our failure could be in our lyrics. Germany’s song Satellite won because it spoke in terms that were concrete and we could all understand. Despite sounding like the daughter of Dick Van Dyke and Bjork, Lena was a likable presence. And her words seemed believable; “I bought new underwear, they’re blue. And I wore ‘em just the other day...”
We could relate to her. Who among us hasn’t gone into Penneys and bought a pair of underpants and then shortly afterwards, worn ‘em? By contrast, in It’s For You, Niamh’s lyrics were short on specifics; “When I cry, it’s for the lonely. When I pray, it’s for the lost and stray.” That’s all very well Niamh, but Lena’s just bought new underwear.
Where next for Ireland? We profess to not be interested. We say: What’s Another Year? Like it doesn’t hurt. But it does. I watched the voting in a pub on Saturday night. As country after country ignored us, punters around me grew irate. They muttered vague racial stereotypes about countries they hadn’t known existed up until now. “Ah For F***S SAKE!” shouted one man at the TV as yet another former Soviet republic gave us nothing. “TYPICAL Azerbijanis”
We have to try a different tack in order to win next year. Germany is the host and we have to target them. We must tell them what they want to hear. Our lyrics must be humble. They must show the country has turned over a new leaf, like a lover begging for forgiveness, but we need help. And we need to bring Him back. He who once bestrode the Euro-pop world like a collossus. That’s right, two-time winner – Johnny Logan.So here, to the tune of Hold Me Now is the chorus for our entry to Eurovision 2011
Bail, us out,
Us out of the euro, Zone.
We’ll pay, Somehow
Or go to the Credit Union
Fierce handy Altogether
When times are tough
When the ECB say your word is not enough.