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Irish count cost of song success: Will Bennett looks at the financial drawbacks of Eurovision triumph

AS MARY ROBINSON, the Irish President, leapt up to applaud her country's third successive win in the Eurovision Song Contest, some of the smiles from Dublin's leading broadcasters seemed a little strained.

Albert Reynolds, the Prime Minister, shared Mrs Robinson's enthusiasm and immediately announced that Ireland would fulfil the winner's traditional obligation and host next year's contest.

But Joe Barry, director-general of RTE, the Irish broadcasting service, displayed caution that might easily have been mistaken for dismay. Asked whether the event would be held in Ireland in 1995, he replied: 'That is a good question.'

As ships in the docks sounded their hooters and revellers spilled out of Dublin bars to stage impromptu street parties, RTE executives were contemplating the sobering thought of a bill for millions of pounds for the third year running.

After winning the contest in 1992, Ireland hosted last year's contest in the small town of Millstreet, between Cork and Killarney. That cost pounds 2.5m and was won by Niamh Kavanagh, from Dublin, where this year's competition was held.

More than 1,100 musicians, support staff and media people descended on the Point Theatre last week. RTE, which depends on licence fees and advertising for its income, diverted 200 staff to run the event which this year cost pounds 3.5m.

On Saturday night, the Irish entrants, Paul Harrington and Charlie McGettigan, coasted to an easy victory over their nearest rivals Poland and Germany with their song Rock 'n' Roll Kids. Ireland was faced with hosting the contest for an unprecedented third year running.

Afterwards, there was even speculation that next year's competition might be held in Northern Ireland. Liam Miller, RTE's head of television, said broadcasters from the north had been present as observers in Dublin.

But by yesterday, RTE seemed to be bowing to the inevitable. Bobby Gahan, the assistant director-general, said: 'The contest will be held in Ireland but where and when and how it will be financed are matters still to be dealt with.'

Senior RTE executives are expected to meet government ministers soon and are likely to ask for financial aid for the 1995 contest.

Leading article, page 13