Ireland participated in the Eurovision Song Contest 2008 after Radio Telefís Éireann (RTÉ) held a national final, Eurosong 2008, to select the Irish entry for the contest, held in Belgrade, Serbia. For 2008, RTÉ reverted to their multi-song multi-singer format that had previously been used to select the Irish entry at Eurovision. Six artists competed in the final, with the Irish public choosing the winner through televoting and SMS. Residents of Northern Ireland could also take part in the voting through televoting and SMS. The winner was Dustin the Turkey with the song « Irelande Douze Pointe« . At Eurovision, he placed 15th in the semi-final, failing to qualify for the final of the contest.
Ireland first entered the Eurovision Song Contest in 1965 and has since entered a total of 41 entries up to 2007 with its 42nd contribution in 2008.
Ireland has won the contest seven times in total, with no other country beating or equalling that record. The country’s first win came in their sixth entry, in 1970, with then-18-year-old Dana winning with « All Kinds of Everything« . Ireland holds the record for being the only country to win the country three times in a row (in 1992, 1993 and 1994), as well as having the only three-times winner (Johnny Logan, who won in 1980 as a singer, 1987 as a singer-songwriter, and again in 1992 as a songwriter). In recent years, however, Ireland’s impressive record at Eurovision has taken a turn, with only two Top 10 results during the 2000s, and Ireland’s first last place finish in 2007.
The Irish national broadcater, Radio Telefís Éireann (RTÉ) broadcasts the event each year and organizes the selection process for the selection its entry. Many methods of selection have been used, with the most common method used by RTÉ being a national final featuring a multi-artist, multi-song selection in which regional juries, and later the public, choosing the winner. In recent years the artist has sometimes been selected internally by RTÉ, with the song being chosen by the public, and previously a talent show format, You’re a Star, was used between the years 2003 and 2005.
After placing last in the Eurovision Song Contest 2007, RTÉ announced that they would review their position in the contest with Tara O’Brien of RTÉ saying that they would « definitely be having a sit-down and looking at our geographical position and going through the whole process. » RTÉ reached a consensus and agreed to change the selection process and revert to the « National Song Contest » format that was used in Ireland before 2001, resulting in seven Irish winners.
Eurosong 2008 was the name of the Irish national final that replaced 2007’s selection process for 2008. An open call for songs by RTÉ was conducted, with the deadline for submissions set at 23 January 2008. A judging panel, including Irish Eurovision winner Linda Martin, reduced the shortlist of entries from the 150 songs submitted to RTÉ to just six entries. Of the 150 songs submitted, many were by previous Irish national final songwriters, including Karl Broderick (Ireland 2005 songwriter), Niall Mooney (You’re A Star 2004 songwriter) and Marc Roberts (Ireland 1997). Similar to the « National Song Contest » that Ireland adopted until 2001, the contest not only took song quality into account, but also visual presentation and proposed performance details. Three judges were present at the contest, giving their views on the songs, as well as their personal opinions. They were Louis Walsh, Irish music manager and X Factor judge, Dana Rosemary Scallon, Irish Eurovision winner of 1970, and Marija Šerifović, winner of the Eurovision Song Contest 2007 for Serbia.
The six songs that competed in the contest were revealed on 3 February, with the artists featuring children’s television presenter/puppet Dustin the Turkey and former Irish Eurovision entrant Marc Roberts.
- Donal Skehan entered a song composed by Joel Humlen, Oscar Gorres and Charlie Mason, called « Double Cross My Heart ». Mason had previously written a song for pop band Monrose for the German national final in 2007. The song is a pop song, described by Skehan as « Eurovision by numbers ». It was performed by Skehan with two male and two female back-up dancers, as well as a male back-up singer, with Skehan wearing a silver waistcoat and trousers. The performance started with Skehan singing in a spotlight, with the dancers swaying in the background, before coming out and dancing around him.
Dustin the Turkey
- Rumours circulated around Ireland after a news-piece on the RTÉ website claimed that famous Irish children’s-TV presenter Dustin the Turkey had entered a song for Eurosong, then called « Twelve points, douze points ». When the list of songs that was issued by RTÉ, it did in fact include Dustin, who was then tipped as the favourite to win the contest. Dustin’s entry, « Irelande Douze Pointe« , is a mock entry, making fun of the Eurovision Song Contest, with lyrics such as « Drag acts and bad acts and Terry Wogan‘s wig ». The title of the song also mocks the contest, mimicking the famous phrase from Eurovision « douze points ». The song was composed by Darren Smith, Simon Fine and Dustin (aka Johnny Morrison). Dustin was present on stage in a trolley, with Kitty B (Kathleen Burke) and Ann Harrington singing backing vocals, along with three male back-up dancers. The performance began with Dustin being wheeled out from the side of the stage by a cloaked figure, with the trolley also being cloaked. The cloaks were removed and the performance included a lot of dancing by the back-up dancers, bathed in green, white and orange, the colours of the Republic of Ireland flag.
- Slovenian singer Maja Slatinšek had entered her song, « Time to Rise », composed by herself and Ziga Pirnat, into not only the Irish final, but also the Slovenian and Romanian finals as well. Slovenian broadcaster Radiotelevizija Slovenija (RTV SLO) did not choose Slatinšek’s song to compete in EMA 2008, the Slovenian final, but RTÉ and the Romanian broadcaster Televiziunea Română (TVR) allowed her to compete in their respective national finals. Slatinšek withdrew from the Romanian final, with her and Pirnat saying that the chance of competing in Ireland was higher than that of Romania, with the Romanian national final, Selecţia Naţională 2008, containing 24 songs over two semi-finals. The « possibility of being among the Irish finalists, one of the biggest powers in Eurovision, was an offer we could not turn down, » said Slatinšek. Slatinšek’s performance involved her singing for the first half of the song with four male dancers coming in later on, and performing artistic moves around her. The end of the performance involved her being raised on a box, with her plain white dress being lowered over it.
- Leona Daly entered the contest with « Not Crazy After All », composed by herself and Steve Booker. The song was performed by Daly in a dark coat, that was taken off during the performance to reveal a red dress. She was accompanied on stage by a band, consisting of a guitarist, keyboardist and drummer in shirts and ties, as well as a female backing singer wearing a black dress.
- Liam Geddes submitted « Sometimes » to the judging panel at RTÉ, written by Susan Hewitt. The song was performed by Geddes on the night of the contest in a red shirt and suit, as well as with a female pianist, a violinist and cellist, as well as a male and a female backing singer. The song began with Geddes sitting on a stool, leaning against the piano, before he got up and walked around the stage.
- Marc Roberts sang « Chances » at Eurosong 2008, composed by himself. Roberts performed the Irish entry to the Eurovision Song Contest 1997 in Dublin, finishing in second place. His performance at Eurosong involved him singing from a microphone stand, with two male and two female singers singing back-up, with the female singers swaying to the song. Roberts wore a shirt and tie, with the backing singers wearing black.
Eurosong 2008 was held at the University Concert Hall in Limerick, on 23 February 2008 and hosted by Ray D’Arcy. The University Concert Hall also hosted the Eurosong 1994 national heat, where « Rock ‘n’ Roll Kids » was selected to represent Ireland, securing Ireland’s sixth win.
The interval act of the contest was of jury member Marija Šerifović singing « Molitva« , the song with which she won the Eurovision Song Contest 2007. After Dustin the Turkey was announced as the winner, he closed the show singing his song: « Irelande Douze Pointe ».
Dustin won Eurosong 2008, and went on to represent Ireland in the first semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2008 on 20 May 2008. Only the winner of the final was announced; it is unknown where the other five songs placed.
|1||Donal Skehan||« Double Cross My Heart »||Joel Humlen, Oscar Görres, Charlie Mason|
|2||Dustin the Turkey||« Irelande Douze Pointe«||Darren Smith, Simon Fine, Dustin the Turkey|
|3||Maja||« Time to Rise »||Maja Slatinšek, Ziga Pirnat|
|4||Leona Daly||« Not Crazy After All »||Leona Daly, Steve Booker|
|5||Liam Geddes||« Sometimes »||Susan Hewitt|
|6||Marc Roberts||« Chances »||Marc Roberts|
Since Ireland came last in the Eurovision Song Contest 2007, Dustin was obliged to perform his song in one of the two semi-finals of the 2008 contest. The EBU split up countries with a friendly voting history into the two different semi-finals, to give a better chance to other countries to win. On 28 January 2008, the EBU held a special draw which determined that Ireland would be in the first semi-final, held on 20 May 2008.
Dana, one of the judges at Eurosong, spoke out against Dustin’s entry, calling it a « mockery of the competition » and calling for Dustin and RTÉ to withdraw from the contest. The entry was also said to have been in breach of the rules of the contest, due to the mocking nature that could « bring the Shows or the ESC as such into disrepute », however, the song was not disqualified. Due to the controversial nature of his entry, Dustin received widespread publicity over his entry before and after his victory. He was mentioned in Spanish media before winning Eurosong and after his victory, Dustin appeared on This Morning, a popular British morning programme on ITV, during Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations.
Dustin, along with his back-up dancers Kitty B and Ann Harrington, sang at the first semi-final on 20 May 2008, performing 11th on the night. The EBU had forced a change of lyrics of the Eurovision performance of the song after the Greek broadcaster Ellinikí Radiofonía Tileórasi (ERT) complained over the use of « Macedonia » in the lyrics of the song in light of the Macedonia naming dispute. The EBU reference group forced the Irish delegation to either change the lyrics of the song to « FYR Macedonia » or similar, or remove Macedonia from the lyrics altogether.
The stage show at the semi-final included Dustin in his trolley, wearing a silver suit. The trolley was dressed in green, white and gold, with the girls wearing gold dresses, green gloves and head-dresses in green, white and gold. Two of the male backing dancers wore large green, white and gold wings and danced around the stage, while the third back-up dancer wore a gold jump suit. The stage involved rippling effects of black and white, as well as waves of green, white and orange through the LCD screens on the stage. Despite being one of the favourites to win the contest outright, Dustin only managed to receive 22 points, placing 15th of the 19 countries competing and failing to reach the final.
Points awarded by Ireland
|12 points||10 points||8 points||7 points||6 points|
|5 points||4 points||3 points||2 points||1 point|
After his Eurovision experience, Dustin returned to Ireland where he launched a campaign against the Lisbon Treaty in the European Union, calling for a ‘No’ vote by the Irish on the referendum for the amendment of the Irish constitution to allow the adoption of the treaty. Dustin’s campaign included the slogan « They didn’t vote for us. Get them back. Vote ‘No’ to Lisbon », referring to his failure at Eurovision.
RTÉ also announced that it was seeking a new television format for the turkey, targeting a more mature audience, but the show would not be in a chat-show format. Pilots were currently in production; however, RTÉ was not expected to air the show until 2009.
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(Note: Entries scored out are when Ireland did not compete)