Mayhem on the Late Late: why the Irish aren't ignoring Eurovision any more

For the first time in a long time I’ve actually been genuinely entertained by the Late Late Show.

Linda Martin confronting Billy McGuinness

My stomach has that light, airy feeling you get from watching bitchy soap operas, or hearing something salacious about somebody you don’t like.

Today, everyone will be asked if they saw the Late Late last night. Whatever the answer, you can be sure ten minutes of moaning and groaning will ensue. We are Irish, after all. If we weren't complaining there'd be something seriously wrong.

But underneath the moans and the groans, people will genuinely be having a conversation based around the Eurovision. However childish and bitchy last night was, at least it has created a certain amount of hype about our entry into this year’s song contest. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all. But first, the controversy.

A few months ago, five industry professionals (mentors) were tasked with finding an act and a song to put forward for the competition. Last night, the acts performed live on the Late Late special and were critiqued by a panel consisting of Louis Walsh, Linda Martin, Eoghan McDermott and Maia Dunphy. After all the acts had performed, the public were invited to vote for their favourite.

Sounds simple, right? And it would have been if one of the mentors, Aslan’s Billy McGuiness, hadn’t kicked up a fuss.

The whole furore started when McGuinness hit out at Louis Walsh’s involvement in the selection process. He said that Walsh had a vested interest in two of the acts; Eoghan Quigg and Kasey Smith.

He said Walsh should be taken out of the equation altogether because of his ability to sway the public vote and insinuated Walsh asked One Direction’s Niall Horan to tweet his 17 million followers about voting for Quigg.

To be honest, I do kind of get what Billy McGuinness is saying. Louis Walsh has a lot of sway in the music world. If he DID get on to the likes of Olly Murs and Kian Egan to support one of the acts, it would bring them a lot of votes. If that happened, it wouldn't be fair to the other acts - in this McGuinness is correct.

It’s pretty obvious though, that Louis Walsh has not been soliciting votes. If he had been, we would have heard about it. We are the public after all, we’re the people Louis is supposed to have been soliciting, yet this is the first I’ve heard about it. Yes, Niall Horan did send out a tweet, but so did thousands of others. Is it such a leap that perhaps Niall Horan just had an independent opinion on who should go to Eurovision?

While McGuinness isn’t technically wrong, his theory is fundamentally flawed. So much so, one begins to wonder what his own motivations are. Citing a need to level the playing field he said he just wanted to give his own act, Laura O’Neill, a fighting chance. And yet he then went on completely overshadow her by verbally attacking two panellists on the night of her performance, thus ensuring all the media coverage the follow day would be about him.

When you look at it like that, his seemingly selfless statement from earlier doesn’t seem to ring true.

It’s a huge pity, because Laura O’Neill was pretty fantastic. Panellist Eoghan McDermott picked up on this and lamented that the controversy would inevitably outshine the winning act.

While this is true, and I really do think Laura O’Neill deserved more attention on the night, there is a positive side to this in that at least people are talking about the Eurovision with a little bit of excitement again.

The annual song contest used to be a source of national pride in Ireland. We used to churn out winners like there was no tomorrow; ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Kids’, ‘In Your Eyes’, ‘Why Me?’, ‘What’s Another Year’… all still great songs that you’d easily sing along to on the radio.

Nowadays, the Eurovision is seen as an outdated, almost cringeworthy tradition. It’s been 17 years since we won and our 2013 entry came dead last.

People are more disillusioned with the Eurovision than ever before – so maybe a little bit of controversy is exactly what we need.

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