As the Eurovision Song Contest celebrates its 60th birthday, Eanna Ó Murchú looks back on Ireland’s 50-year adventure in the annual continental songwriting showdown
There was a time, in the mid-1990s, when Ireland could have bottled its formula for composing Eurovision entries and when it came to peddling it, they could have named their price.
Such is the Irish success rate in the 60-year-old annual European songwriting showdown, that composers all over the continent once looked enviously to the country, that still sits atop the Eurovision leaderboard, for direction, desperate to learn the secret to its success.
Ireland’s record-breaking seventh success came twenty years ago courtesy of Eimear Quinn, and the hauntingly beautiful ‘The Voice’. Since then, our Eurovision fortunes have declined somewhat.
Yet, undeterred by defeat, Ireland has bounced back from a run of poor finishes and continues to compete, with a bottomless pit of enthusiasm.
However, a lot has changed on the continent since the mid-90s and there are many conspiracy theorists who blame ‘other deciding factors’ when questions are asked as to why the well of success has run dry.
The first Eurovision Song Contest was held in Lugano, Switzerland, on May 24th, 1956. Only seven countries entered, with each performing two songs – the host country emerged victorious.
Ireland first participated in the Eurovision in 1965 when showband icon, Butch Moore, won the right to represent his country in Naples, in Italy, when he won the National Song Contest. His song ‘Walking the Streets in the Rain’ finished in sixth place, on 11 points. It went on to top the Irish singles chart. Butch was a member of the Capitol showband, hugely popular its day, a band that once featured a young songwriter by the name of Phil Coulter. Derry-born Coulter would go on to enjoy his own Eurovision success.