Debut – 1965
Current Broadcaster – RTÉ
National Final – Eurosong
Best Result – Winner (1970, 1980, 1987, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996)
Highest Score – 226 points (1994)
Worst Result – 15th in Semi-final (2008 – 22 points)
Ireland is to date the most successful nation in Eurovision history with 7 wins, and is the only country to win it 3 consecutive times. They have participated every year since their 1965 debut, except in 1983 (due to a strike at RTÉ) and 2002 (due to relegation).
Only one of their entries was performed in Irish Gaelic (1972), with all the others performed in English.
Ireland made their debut in 1965 with the song “Walking the Streets in the Rain” (performed by Butch Moore), and finished a respectable 6th. In fact all their entries in the ’60s finished no lower than 7th, peaking at 2nd with Sean Dunphy performing “If I Could Choose” in 1967.
The ’70s started with Ireland’s first win: “All Kinds of Everything” as performed by teenaged singer Dana, a song which to this day is considered a Eurovision classic by some. However, the nation slumped into a run of midtable results for a few years afterwards, and would not see the top 5 again until 1977, with The Swarbriggs Plus Two finishing 3rd with “It’s Nice To Be In Love Again”.
They ended the decade with two consecutive 5th place results in 1978 with “Born to Sing” (performed by Colm ‘C.T.’ Wilkinson), and in 1979 with “Happy Man” (performed by Cathal Dunne).
Like the previous decade, the ’80s kicked off with an Irish win with Johnny Logan performing “What’s Another Year?”. But it was not to be his only victory: he came back in 1987 with “Hold Me Now”, and is to date the only performer to have won Eurovision more than once. Both of his winning songs are considered classics, although they also have their fair few detractors. He also wrote Ireland’s 1984 entry “Terminal 3” with Linda Martin performing it, which finished 2nd.
Outside of that, Ireland had a fairly decent run of results in the ’80s, only finishing outside the top 10 twice.
A personal joke at Euro Dummies is that the ’90s should be essentially known as “The Ireland Years”, in which the decade saw possibly the hottest streak of success by a single nation ever seen in the history of the Eurovision Song Contest.
They started the decade in joint 2nd place, but they were just warming up… In 1992, Linda Martin returned with another Johnny Logan-penned song “Why Me?”, and started an unprecendented winning streak for the Emerald Isle.
Given the task of hosting the 1993 Contest, RTÉ took the leftfield decision to host it in the small town of Millstreet in County Cork. After a close-run battle, they won on home soil with the ballad “In Your Eyes” (performed by Niamh Kavanagh). No broadcaster had hosted two consecutive contests before, but RTÉ took on the challenge.
The 1994 Contest, this time in Dublin, is notable for introducing Riverdance to the world as the interval act. The host nation sent the low-key song “Rock ‘n’ Roll Kids” by Paul Harrington & Charlie McGettigan, which wasn’t expected to do terribly well. Then the unexpected happened: Ireland won again for the third consecutive time. By a landslide. Their score was at the time the highest scoring Eurovision song in history until 1997.
By 1995, RTÉ were worried about the possibility of winning again, and informed the EBU that should they win the next contest they would not be able to host it again. They need not have worried though as their entry sank without trace, however they ended up winning in 1996, when traditional ballad “The Voice” (performed by Eimear Quinn) became their fourth win in five years, a victory that was considered ‘too old-fashioned’ by many fans compared to some of the more modern chart-friendly entries that year.
Despite RTÉ feeling a major pinch in their budget by this point, they went ahead with hosting the 1997 Contest. Their entry that year “Mysterious Woman” (performed by Marc Roberts) finished 2nd, but it would be Ireland’s last top 5 result to date.
Hosting Eurovision is rather expensive for any broadcaster, so you can imagine what hosting four contests in five years could do to the budget of a small broadcaster such as RTÉ. Since their winning run, RTÉ have been accused of deliberately sending acts that were mediocre at best to avoid winning and thus avoid the privilege of hosting again. In fact an episode of the hit ’90s sitcom Father Ted was centred around this theory.
Since the turn of the century, Ireland have only reached the top 10 three times: in 2000 with “Millennium of Love” (performed by Eamonn Toal) finishing 6th, in 2006 with “Every Song Is a Cry for Love” (performed by Brian Kennedy) finishing 10th, and in 2011 with “Lipstick” (performed by Jedward) finishing 8th. They also suffered a last place result in 2007, having earned an automatic place in the Final the previous year.
Since the introduction of semi-finals in 2004, Ireland have failed to qualify on three occasions in 2005, 2008 and 2009.