Ireland Falter At Final Eurovision Hurdle

The Israel entry, performed by Netta Barzilai, won the contest, pushed over the line by achieving the highest level of public support.

There was a disappointing end to Eurovison week for Ryan O’Shaughnessy, when the Irish entry was placed 16th, with a total of 136 points, in Saturday night's final. 74 of those points had come from the various juries – a respectable total which itself looked unattainable as the first few votes were announced.

For an agonising while, it seemed that we might rank among the competition's most ignored damp squibs. However, lower-level points started to accumulate, placing Ireland in or around the half-way mark – where we stayed even after the public vote.

"It’s unfortunate that we didn’t get the points we really wanted, but that’s Eurovision,” Ryan O’Shaughnessy said afterwards. “It’s not as easy as just going out and playing live.

“Tonight felt amazing,” he added. “I felt like I had everyone in Ireland behind me. I couldn’t be prouder to be Irish."

The winning song from Israel had been among the pre-contest favourites. Entitled ‘Toy’, it touches on contemporary themes, including the MeToo movement. In essence a sort of novelty pop track, it is hard to get excited about.

"I'm so happy. Thank you so much for choosing different, thank you for accepting difference between us,“ Netta said on stage immediately after her win was announced. "Thank you for celebrating diversity. I love my country. Next time in Jerusalem!”

Whether that openness to diversity extends to Palestinians is a different question. But it is not entirely unfair to ask it, when a country’s flag features so prominently in the celebrations (as indeed would the Irish flag, had Ryan O’Shaughnessy triumphed).

In an interview with Israel's Kan TV, Netta proclaimed that she was looking forward to the world seeing what she described as "the Israeli carnival" when the contest comes to Jerusalem next year.

"People will see how wonderful we are,” she said, “what a vibe we have. Best people… the best place in the world. Be good to others. And be good to yourselves."

It is, you might say, typical of the well-meaning guff which is characteristic of an occasion like this. But that the victory will give fresh focus to the campaign for artists to boycott Israel is absolutely certain.

"The winner Netta brings a completely different style to the Eurovision that we hadn’t seen before,” O’Shaughnessy said – and he was not entirely wrong – though there have indeed been what might be seen as oddball winners in the past. This is Israel’s fourth Eurovision victory. Their last win came in 1998, when Dana International won with the song ‘Diva’.

Hot Press' favourite – Cyprus’ Eleni Foureira – was finally placed second, with ‘Fuego’. A former member of the hit band Mystique, she had been a big sensation during the semi-final stage, and the contest eventually resolved itself into a straight battle for the public vote between Israel and Cyprus. Israel were ahead on points from the judges – but not by a lot, and a shift sufficient to take Foureira across the line as winner was on the cards, if she topped the public vote.

However, it was not to be, with Netta Barzilai garnering a higher number of public votes securing the victory for Israel. What will happen next year, however, remains a puzzler. That a concerted effort will be made to disrupt the event to the greatest extent possible seems inevitable. Indeed RTÉ is certain to be challenged about sending an Irish entrant.

Interestingly, Paul McCartney recently decided that he would not travel to Israel to receive the Wolf Prize for Music, which was awarded to him in February. The ceremony is scheduled for later this month.

"I'm grateful to be chosen for the Wolf Prize for Music," McCartney told Haaretz newspaper. "It’s certainly a great honor for me to be included among the greatest artists, creators, scientists and writers of today’s history. But after reviewing my schedule I have to announce that I will not be able to arrive at the date set."

Similarly, American-Israeli actress Natalie Portman refused to pick up the so called Genesis Prize when she heard that the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be speaking at the prize-giving.

So what will RTÉ decide? There’s interesting times ahead. That much is certain.


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