A history of Ireland at the Eurovision Song Contest

A history of Ireland at the Eurovision Song Contest

LOVE IT or hate it, the Eurovision Song Contest is possibly the one area where Ireland has outshined every other country.

Held annually since 1956 (apart from 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic), the contest sees each country send a performer with an original song to vie for the public's vote to become the winner.

While Ireland has not won the contest since 1996, the country can claim the title of having the most wins in the competition's history.

Ireland has participated in the Eurovision 54 times since making its debut in 1965, missing only the 1983 iteration which was held in Munich in West Germany. A strike at RTÉ that year meant the station lacked the resources to send a participant, so RTÉ broadcast the contest with the BBC commentary feed.

In Ireland's debut, the country finished sixth with the song Walking The Streets In The Rain by Butch Moore. It took just six entries for Ireland to eventually win its first win with Dana and All Kinds of Everything in 1970, with the song becoming a hit all over Europe and launching her as a household name. Dana later went on to enjoy a career in politics.

Johnny Logan became Ireland's second Eurovision winner with What's Another Year? in 1980 before going on repeat this success in 1987 with Hold Me Now. Logan became the only singer to win the contest twice as a singer, a record he still holds.



The Golden Years

It wasn't until 1992 that Ireland won again, kicking off a streak for the country that is yet to be repeated by any other nation.

Linda Martin won with Why Me? in 1992, followed by Niamh Kavanagh with In Your Eyes in 1993, and Paul Harrington and Charlie McGettigan with Rock 'n' Roll Kids in 1994.

As the winner each year hosts the following year's competition, Ireland hosted the Eurovision three years in a row. All were held in Dublin apart from in 1993, where the contest was hosted in Millstreet - a town in north-west Cork with a population of 1,500 people.

Ireland then had a one-year break from winning in 1995, before returning to claim the trophy in 1996 with Eimear Quinn's The Voice.

Ireland has also had runner-up success, having come in second position in 1967, 1984, 1990 and 1997. Ireland has also had a total of 18 top five results.

Not only does Ireland have the most wins for the contest, but it has also hosted what is arguably the most memorable Eurovision Song Contest moment of all time, despite it being an interval performance.

During the 1994 contest in the Point Theatre in Dublin, Riverdance debuted to the world - launching Irish dancing into a global audience. Shortly afterwards, husband and wife production team John McColgan and Moya Doherty expanded it into a stage show, which opened in Dublin on 9 February 1995. Since then, the show has visited over 450 venues worldwide and been seen by over 25 million people, making it one of the most successful dance productions in the world.



Modern years

Ireland has unfortunately struggled to achieve what it did in the 90s at recent Eurovision Song Contests.

The country's only top 10 placement of the 2000s came when Brian Kennedy finished tenth in 2006. At the 2007 contest, Ireland's representatives were Irish folk group Dervish performing They Can't Stop The Spring; having automatically qualified for the final, the group finished last with five points (all from Albania), becoming the first Irish entrants to come last in a final.

In 2008, Dustin the Turkey failed to qualify for the final with his song Irelande Douze Pointe; the same fate befell Sinéad Mulvey and Black Daisy in 2009.

In 2011, Ireland's luck changed when X Factor finalists Jedward finished in eighth place with 119 points, thus making them Ireland's most successful entry in 10 years. Their song Lipstick topped the iTunes charts in Austria, Germany, Ireland and Sweden.

Jedward represented Ireland again in 2012 with Waterline, but after making it through to the final, they were awarded only 46 points, finishing in 19th place. In 2013, Ireland came last in the final for the second time.



Some facts

  • During the first semi-final of the 2014 contest, it was revealed that the duo, Jedward, hold two Eurovision records: the highest hair (18.9 cm) and the biggest shoulder pads.
  • Ireland has failed to qualify for the final of the contest a total of eight times.
  • Ireland's lowest points haul in the final came in 1965 with Butch Moore's Walking the Streets in the Rain, receiving 11 points. However, as this was in the early years of the competition, and indeed Ireland's first year to enter it, Ireland finished in a positive sixth place.


This year, Brooke Scullion from Derry is representing Ireland with her song That's Rich, which can be viewed below!