Ireland did its worst, but Europe plotted its victory

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The Independent Online
AS IRELAND sailed remorselessly towards its third Eurovision Song Contest title in three years, there must have been many people in the world apart from me who leapt up from their seats and cried: 'Don't do it] Don't win again] You'll go bankrupt] You'll go deaf] You haven't got anywhere else in Ireland to hold the bloody thing next year . . .'

All in vain. Ireland went ahead and won and celebrated, and everyone cheered like mad.

Well, there's nothing very special about cheering. Have you noticed that at charity dinners people are clapped to the rafters for having the winning ticket in the raffle? If people can be clapped for having good luck, then presumably they can be clapped for having bad luck, and that is what I was clapping Ireland for the night before last . . .

I would like to get one thing straight right now - I did not watch the Eurovision Song Contest on television on Saturday. Not the singing, anyway. I only ever watch for the voting, which - unlike the singing and songwriting - still retains some national characteristics. (The only thing that was at all Swedish about Abba, for instance, was the way they looked, not the way they sounded.)

Whenever I have happened to switch on to the programme in subsequent years, I have taken care to miss the songs and tune in when the voting has started. This weekend was enough to prove that the voting still has its own special flavour, as for instance when Cyprus gave Greece its biggest vote and Greece gave Cyprus its biggest vote . . .

Anyway, as the voting wore on, it became apparent that Ireland was going to win with no trouble. Everyone kept voting for them. They did not need it. They had won the last two times. It was somebody else's turn.

Hungary was ahead for a while, but remorselessly, helplessly, the votes came rolling in for Ireland, and the Irish started going mad.

'We're not home and dry yet,' warned one of the Irish presenters, the male one, the one who could not pronounce 'points' in French properly, which was a pity as it was the only word he needed to say at all often, but it was no use. They were home and dry.

And as the votes for Ireland came rolling in, rather like junk mail through the post, I found myself thinking of Just A Minute on Radio 4.

I was thinking, above all, of that moment in Just A Minute when, instead of seeking to challenge the speaker, the other players occasionally deliberately refrain from doing so.

The speaker is left to do his whole 60 seconds in a deathly silence. They just let him flounder on, no matter how many mistakes he makes. The audience knows what is happening. Often you can tell that he knows what is happening, but this makes it even funnier. Until now he has been longing to proceed unchallenged; now, suddenly, he is desperate for a challenge that never comes . . .

Well, it suddenly occurred to me that what was happening in the Eurovision Contest must be a vast practical joke along those lines. All the other countries had got together beforehand and said: 'Ireland seems to be happy staging the bloody thing - so why don't we give it to them again next year?'

Somebody had said that people would smell a rat if everyone voted for the Irish, and somebody else said: 'Don't you believe it - normal rules of logic don't appply in the Eurovision Song contest]'

So finally everyone agreed to vote for Ireland, and they did, and today there are hugely relieved television and broadcasting companies all over Europe who are saying: 'Phew] Another year we don't have to stage the Eurovision Song contest]'

It did occur to me at one point that perhaps I was being unfair and perhaps the Irish had had a truly wonderful song. Luckily, there is a moment at the end of the contest when the winners come on and do their song again. This is presumably for the benefit of all those who had switched on only for the voting and were curious to know what the winner sounded like.

Well, the Irish winner turned out to be a colourless, vaguely folky, nostalgic Identikit song done by two men sitting down, one at a guitar which he seldom played and one at the piano, looking like a cut-price Serge Gainsbourg. It was the sort of song entered by a nation which did not really want to win.

'If we have a group with no girls, no dancing, and nobody even standing up, there's no chance we can win again,' the Irish must have said. But they were wrong. Because they had not reckoned on a pan-European conspiracy to give them the title.

That's the way I read it, anyway. If anyone has a better theory, let me know. Better still, set it to music and send it to Ireland marked 'Eurovision 1995'.

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