Leading Article: Dublin's chorus of flaithiulach

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The Independent Online
THE shog or fairies are well- known to have inspired the finest Irish music. Many are the tales of tin whistlers and uilleann pipers falling asleep beside an ancient rath or fort and dreaming wonderful new tunes. But the little people are considered a mixed blessing, given their reputation as tricksters and practical jokers - as the Irish organisers of the Eurovision song contest were reminded to their cost over the weekend.

Sure enough, the music offered by the Irish participants guaranteed the country's entry into the record books by securing an unprecedented third consecutive victory. But officials at the state television service RTE are horrified: success means that they will have to stage the competition for a third time in 1995. Once was expensive, twice was crippling, three times would be simply flaithiulach. It is like having a great funeral wake only to discover that the deceased was not quite dead at the time and the event will have to repeated.

But the money will be found. Albert Reynolds, the Taoiseach, made his money out of dance halls, and when he arrived on the political scene he didn't come up the Liffey on a bubble. He knows well that the national pride would be at stake if the show did not go on. Britain may punch above its weight with nuclear weapons; for its part, the Republic of Ireland has the Eurovision song contest and a football team with pretensions to winning this summer's World Cup.

And a hat-trick of victories does a certain credit to Irish music. The type on offer to Europe has few obvious echoes of Gaelic Ireland. There was not a harp, a fiddle nor a bodhran in sight on Saturday night. The towering figures of traditional music, such as Turlough O Carolan, the 17th-century composer, and Sean O Riada, would have been shocked. The performance owed nothing to the musical genius of their successors, the likes of Micho Russell, the virtuoso tin whistler who died in February.

Yet the 'Rock 'n' Roll Kids' number, for all its mawkish nostalgia, did spring from the rich tradition of Irish ballad singing which can be found wherever a glass of porter is raised. Reports suggest that the Europeans who spent much of the past week in Dublin sampling this fare are keen to return for more. Hopefully, the shog will not have the last laugh and RTE will find its crock of gold.