Well the night is almost nigh when we send out a turkey to bat for Ireland. Trailing the field ignominiously in recent years has obviously driven us either to desperate lengths or to a sense of fowl determination to play them at their own game in sending a turkey puppet, aka Dustin to represent us. Maybe someone is deadly serious up there in RTE that he could be a live contender, or else it represents a studied response to what this so-called song contest has become. Do we just sit back and enjoy the craic in watching if anyone else sees the joke or the point of it all? There are those who love their music and take pride in Ireland’s great musical tradition and the wealth of wonderful music being created in Ireland – they are either cringing with embarrassment or are indifferent to the pointless irrelevance of this dumb show. But it was not always thus to us here in Ireland.

All Kind of All Over the Place

It was John Waters’s Spring something last year, Brian Kennedy’s whatever the previous year, then our Chris Doran the year before that, but it was the year of the brother and sister act that our love affair with the Eurovision hit a sticky patch, or was that a case of the emergent East European nations sticking up for each other regardless of the quality or indeed tackiness of a fellow entry. I recall for some reason or other that year that a mere twelve lines, and from a Reuters report at that and tucked away in the bottom corner of page seven of the Irish Times, was the skimpy detail that Greece had won the Eurovision. And that would seem to reflect the general level of interest or rather lack of it, especially after the Irish duo failed to make the final itself.

But then again, matters have been slipping down the slippery slide for some time now with regard to this contest. Of course we live in a different world now, for better or for worse and our perspectives on many things have changed dramatically. As they say, the past is a different country and we were left reflecting what type of country that past was when all matters Eurovision held us in its thrall. I recall that they were dancing in the street in Kiev that weekend with the novel thrill of it all – of being centre stage and loving every minute of it. That’s where we were come the early 70’s and it was a kind of arrival among the ‘nations of the world’ as a lyrical version of Emmet’s hopes and ambitions. We longed for approbation as a people, for approval, for recognition. This Eurovision thing became hugely important to us – few other fora were available to us then to proclaim ourselves.

To the Hearts of Europe

Despite the beautiful sturdiness of the national games, they were not played on a world stage and greatness on soccer or rugby fields had yet to be fully realised. People of a certain age recall now those early songs of what was a song contest. That generation all still can either sing or at least sing along to and know every syllable and every nuance of every single word and note of the first ‘big three’ Come Back to Stay, Walking the Streets in the Rain, and If I Could Choose – Dickie, Butch and Sean. They were national names and much loved and they all did us proud, and why wouldn’t they? Their talents were well honed at home and abroad on the challenging Ballroom circuits. And isn’t Dickie still out there, giving it all he’s got!

And then came Dana! From the moment I first heard it, I was confident that she would not only win on the night at the National Song Contest but that she would surely go all the way. She and the song had all the essentials, a sweet Derry lass, a simply enchanting catchy tuneful love song. Remember the times that were in it, the North was literally going ballistic. The nationalist people of Derry were enduring a traumatic and terrible time. Phil Coulter’s song The Town I Loved So Well evokes so well the awfulness of it all. And those images of Derry were being broadcast all over Europe, indeed, the whole world. It was against this backdrop that this young slip of a girl sang her song of love and we and all Europe instantly took it and Dana to their hearts. (Lets not forget of course, Johnny Logan, Niamh Kavanagh, Linda Martin, and the Rock ‘n’ roll Kids et al later on).

The SophistiCats

At this point, we were on the threshold of another journey as we were on the brink of joining the Common Market/ EEC. In development and national maturity terms we were at the equivalent stage that many of the Eastern Europeans have been at of late and where the likes of Georgia and others are now. That’s where they are at in their national journey. Success in this contest looms large for them as they now seek out approbation and a’ place among the nations of the earth. ‘It’s only a song(?) contest to us old hands and no big deal! Is that still the view of us the ‘SophistiCats’? We who made this contest our own so many times in so many ways.

Though we have moved on, oh boy haven’t we just, and much has been achieved. We have become a wealthy country in which we want all kinds of everything and the money to get it. We were on the Tiger’s back, there has been considerable successes on all kinds of fields of sport, business, and in the cultural sphere, (though things are on the shaky side again!) Do we not have the greatest Rock Band in the world and long time masters of that title? They who have sold out three capacity concerts for Croke Park in recent times and have done the same all over the world. And the same Croke Park is now one of the greatest stadiums in the world. We are bang centre stage alright! So this Eurovision thingy doesn’t matter then?

Yes and No

In many ways as I’ve tried to point out above it has been part of us and has had a role in the national psyche but now that we are all sophisticated we don’t want to own up to such the enjoyment of such simple pleasure. It’s almost akin at this stage to references to being part of Dev’s much derided rural idyll ‘of comely maidens dancing at crossroads’. But that being said we are also a competitive lot and we like to see any one competing in the national colours, so to speak, giving a good account of them selves. And regardless of all that sophistiCat stuff, there tends to be a sense of injured pride. And we want to know why, now I know that unlike previous times we are not going to lose many nights sleep over it, as it no longer commands the importance it once had in Irish life. However, we must come up with a solution if we intend to continue to participate in the Eurovision.

To Kill a Mocking Bird

But is this up-coming fowl act the solution? I don’t think so, but as we discussed above it seems to me that the RTE producers behind Dustin’s entry are making their own statement about their current attitude to the state of play in matters Eurovision by making a mockery of the whole thing. But, how will this saucy bird do? Will he make it through from the qualifiers even? Is he even remotely intelligible outside of Ireland? Will there be waves of complaint as to his fowl language, that is if he can be understood in the first place? Can he carry a tune? Is it a good song or does that matter? Is it true that this national turkey is to be accompanied by the Cranberries to make the whole thing tastier to the international/pan-European palate? Will there a tribunal of enquiry when he returns crestfallen lest there be demands that we leave the EU forthwith? Will there be cries to kill this mocking bird – murder most foul!

Go on, ya good ting!!

Go seachtain eile, slan