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Opinion: Ireland should send songs in Irish to the Eurovision Song Contest

Are we overdue a song in the Irish language at Eurovision?

Following Sophie Lennon’s success in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2022, I pose the question: Should Ireland send more songs in the Irish language to the Eurovision Song Contest? In my (unprofessional) opinion, I believe that the Emerald Isle would shine brighter by embracing our national language.

“Solas” was the song sung by Sophie Lennon in Yerevan for Ireland which took Europe by storm. The hauntingly beautiful ballad sung in the Irish language placed 4th overall, being the best result in a Eurovision (Junior or Senior) contest since 1997 when Marc Roberts achieved 2nd place below only Katrina and the Waves.

An Irish song in 2023?

Sophie Lennon has left a mark on Eurofans and Irish people alike. There is a sentiment amongst (especially Irish) eurofans that Ireland should send a song in Irish in order to get a better result and break our nonqualifying streak. However, hopes for an Irish language song may well be destroyed. Speaking to Louise and Conor of the Éirevision podcast, the Irish Head of Delegation, Michael Kealy, stated that there was only one song in the shortlist that was Irish. This most likely means that we will not hear an Irish language song in Eurosong 2023.

https://open.spotify.com/episode/6PuhJ2df0kHJKHESXYzoXk?si=010c4798f6e14f2c

What else did Michael Kealy say about the potential of a song in Irish appearing in Eurosong?

The Irish HoD is certainly open to receiving songs in the Irish language that are good enough to be entered into Eurosong saying, “I’m still waiting but I’m sure one is out there”. This comment will hopefully put a lot of eurofans’ minds at ease knowing that RTÉ are open to receiving songs as Gaeilge. Nevertheless, where I personally disagree with Michael is on his opinion about the power of representation of the Irish language in Eurosong. Chatting about whether a song should make the top 6 in Eurosong, Kealy says, “It doesn’t get any brownie points just for being in Irish”. Whilst I agree with the sentiment, I disagree with the idea that Irish language representation carries no weight in a National Final. In my opinion, choosing songs for Eurosong is different to choosing which song should win the National Final. I believe a National Final should be diverse and represent the aspects of the country’s culture. If a song in Irish is of a certain caliber, I personally would add it to the top 6 and I still would add it even if the song may not be as liked as the 6th best song in English. This addition is a very powerful one as one song (that may not even win) can influence a lot of Irish language songwriters in participating in later years. After this is achieved, then it is my belief that all songs should be on an even playing field regardless of language.

My Proposal

In my view, it is imperative that we include an Irish language song in Eurosong every year (if possible). In order to achieve this, I think RTÉ should collaborate with TG4 in order to secure at least one song in Irish every year. As we have seen with Junior Eurovision, the team at TG4 are very committed to sending an Irish song ever since their debut in 2015 and I think TG4 would do an amazing job at bringing our native language into Eurosong.

History of the Irish language in the Eurovision Song Contest

Ireland debuted in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1965 and ever since, RTÉ have only sent one song to the competition in Irish. Ceol an Ghrá by Sandie Jones was selected to represent the nation at the 1972 contest in Edinburgh placing 15th. There have been many Irish language songs in Eurosong throughout the years but there hasn’t been one since Doona sang An Bon Bon Carr in Eurosong 1999.

Ireland at the Eurovision Song Contest

Ireland debuted at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1965 and has won the competition a record 7 times  (1970, 1980, 1988, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996). However, since the introduction of the public vote and the semi-finals, Ireland has struggled to reach the same heights.

Brooke represented Ireland at this year’s contest in Turin with That’s Rich. Unfortunately, she did not qualify, placing 15th in the second semi-final with 47 points. This marked Ireland’s third consecutive non-qualification.

What do you think? Do you think Ireland should send more songs in Irish to the Eurovision Song Contest? Let us know! Be sure to stay updated by following @ESCXTRA on Twitter@escxtra on Instagram@escxtra on TikTok and liking our Facebook page for the latest updates! Also, be sure to follow us on Spotify for the latest music from your favourite ESC and JESC acts.

Micheál Linden

Eurovision has entrenched itself in my life for as long as I can remember. I tweet a lot about Emma Muscat, Portugal and the fact that I'm from the country with the most ESC wins (ole, ole, ole). I have a tendency to get locked in a bathroom against my will.

Comments on Opinion: Ireland should send songs in Irish to the Eurovision Song Contest

  • Jim

    It is a pity that Junior Eurovision came too late in this year’s national selection cycle for Irish language composers to see how well an Irish language song might be received. The problem also is that Sophie’s wonderful performance has practically gone unnoticed here in Ireland because Junior Eurovision is not on RTÉ but the Irish language service station TG4. TG4’s audience for Junior Eurovision was 15,000 (or 0.3% of the population of Ireland) so her fantastic result has barely caused a ripple here.

    However I’m not as keen as adding an Irish song to the national selection simply because it’s in Irish. A song that’s not of a certain standard is not going to win the selection and in the longer run would I think be counterproductive because then any song in Irish in future would be hamstrung by the accusation that it’s only present because of the language and not judged on its own merits. As much as it would be interesting to see how a song in Irish would fare in the adult contest and I’d get behind it adding a poor song to the national selection would be pure tokenism.

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