Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Friday 8 December 2023 Dublin: 9°C
Sebastian Scheiner

As it happened: The Netherlands' Duncan Laurence wins Eurovision as UK finishes in last place

Eurovision fans are already blaming the Brexit factor for the UK’s dire showing.

AN ESTIMATED 200 million viewers worldwide tuned in to watch 26 finalists duke it out in the Eurovision tonight in Tel Aviv.

Ireland weren’t in this year’s final lineup after Sarah McTernan failed to make it through from the semi-finals on Thursday night. 

After a two-hour long contest and an interval act that included a performance from Madonna, The Netherlands’ Duncan Laurence eventually triumphed after the public votes were revealed. 

The televised show played out largely without incident amid tight security at the venue. Pro-Palestine groups around the world, meanwhile, held alternative events as part of a boycott campaign, including, in Ireland, a concert at the National Stadium headlined by Christy Moore. 

Okay some of the important details first… 

The contest starts at 8pm and the results, in keeping with the system of recent years, will be determined by a combination of expert jury votes in each country and viewers from all 41 participating Eurovision countries (including Ireland, even though our contestant is no longer in the running). 

Netta, last year’s winner for Israel, will perform the opening act, and there’s an interval show featuring various past Eurovision winners and runners up from recent years singing each other’s songs (Conchita Wurst, pictured below, is probably the best known of them).

Madonna will perform just before the results are announced singing Like a Prayer and … some new song or other. 

The voting is a 50/50 split between the juries (who have already cast their votes) and the viewer votes. 

We should have a result shortly before midnight (yes, it’s a very long show … that’s why they have the semi-finals these days). 

53rd Golden Camera Awards Ceremony DPA / PA Images DPA / PA Images / PA Images

Of course, there have been various international protests in the run up to the contest – and here at home Christy Moore will headline an alternative concert in Dublin’s National Stadium. 

On the ground in Tel Aviv, where a high security cordon has been put in place around the venue, protests from pro-Palestinian groups have been largely muted today.

Reuters reports that around 60 people boarded a boat at the nearby port of Jaffa earlier to hear various speakers voice their opposition to Israel’s hosting of the competition (if you’re interested, by way of wider coverage of the debate, you can find an op-ed supporting the boycott, from the IPSC, here, and one from the Israeli Ambassador to Ireland opposing it here). 

In recent days, there’s also been some opposition to the fact that the show is being staged on a Saturday from local religious leaders.

The fact that rehearsals and preparations for tonight’s final have been taking place during the Jewish Sabbath has prompted criticism from Israel’s chief rabbi. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even felt in necessary to write a letter asserting that the government has no control over the staging of the contest. More here in the Jerusalem Post.

Before the Eurovision Song Contest - Security DPA / PA Images A mobile police station on the beach in Tel Aviv. DPA / PA Images / PA Images

Meanwhile back at the song contest… 

A running order might be helpful, right? 

Malta kick off proceedings this evening, with Spain closing the show. Favourites The Netherlands go 12th while Australia (whose staging is quite a spectacle this year) are second last. 

Iceland are also well worth catching. You may have heard some chatter about them already this week, but the fact that they’re described in their official Eurovision biog as an “award-winning, anti-capitalist, BDSM, techno-dystopian, performance art collective” may tell you a thing or two. 

How is the running order chosen I hear you ask? According to (that’s the official site): 

“The running order is decided to ensure each act has the opportunity to stand out amongst the crowd. To come to a decision, the producers look at the genre of music, whether a song is performed by a solo singer or group, the use of props, the tempo of the song and various other aspects of each act.”

The show is under way – it kicked off with a very expensive looking opening montage featuring, amongst other things, Netta flying an airplane, a horde of cyclists, and people launching Chinese lanterns (a bit like an expensive ad for a mobile phone provider). 

Netta then landed the plane backstage (that’s what it looks like anyway, the staging is pretty top notch) and various contestants from participating countries paraded across the stage. 

Transgender diva Dana International, who won the contest for Israel back in in 1998, then performed briefly. 

This is all still going on… My computer crashed so this liveblog may not be entirely, well, live for a few minutes. 


So… Who are the hosts? 

The younger gentleman is Assi Azar, who has presented the national selection contest for the Eurovision in Israel. 

His male colleague is Erez Tal, a veteran presenter of the local edition of Big Brother and a game show called The Vault. 

They’re joined by Bar Refaeli, who has hosted the Israeli edition of The X Factor but is apparently better known as a model.

Lucy Ayoub, who rose to fame as a Youtuber, is the fourth presenter. She’s a relatively less experienced TV host. You can find full bios here if you’re, for some reason, interested.  

No I’m none the wiser as to why those spoken word sections from the Czech Republic’s entry seemed to be delivered in a cockney-ish twang. 

I suppose you just need to pick an accent if you decide to sing in English.

Here’s some more about the band anyway: “The indie-pop band was founded by Albert Černý in 2013 and the band’s name was inspired by a Bon Iver song. Since the very beginning, Lake Malawi wanted to make it outside of their home country Czech Republic with all their repertoire sung in English.”

Pretty good song though – they seemed to be the first act to get the crowd going. 

They’re fairly whipping through the songs now tonight aren’t they? 


In case you’re wondering why you didn’t see that pair from Germany in any of the semi-finals, they’re one of the acts from the ‘Big Five’ – the five European countries who don’t need to qualify and just go directly to the final. 

The other four members are Spain, the UK, Italy and France. 

It’s because they make the biggest financial contributions to the European Broadcasting Union, which runs the contest. 

Israel, as they’re hosting, didn’t feature in the semis either. 

The inspiration for Russia’s entry? 

fr dick byrne

Jean Paul Gaultier is here now, talking … bringing a certain sense of je ne sais quoi to proceedings.


That gentleman who sounded a little like Leonard Cohen fronting KC and the Sunshine Band was called Serhat and he was representing San Marino. 

Yes, somehow San Marino got in and we didn’t. 

Don’t ask me to explain how Eurovision works. 

The song, in case you missed it, was called Say Na Na Na. 

And yes, contractually there always has to be a song called Say Na Na Na in the Eurovision. 

Marty Whelan, who is marking his 312th year on commentary duties for RTÉ tonight, just made the spot-on observation that one of the hosts (Assi Azar) sounds remarkably like Steve Carell’s character in the Despicable Me films. 


marty2 Marty Whelan via Twitter Marty Whelan via Twitter

Quick poll, actually: 

Poll Results:

Graham Norton  (807)
Marty Whelan  (594)

Okay The Netherlands up now … this is the favourite. 

The country hasn’t won in 44 years so there’s quite a bit of pressure on 24-year-old Duncan Laurence tonight. 

He’s not particularly well known, even in his own country, but competed in his local version of The Voice in recent years. 

The song itself is a bit of belter, as these things go (‘these things’ being piano-based power ballads). 

Here’s what he’s had to say about the song: 

“I got my inspiration from the story of a loved one who died at a young age. Arcade is a story about the search for the love of your life. It is the hope for the – sometimes – unattainable.”

An emotional performance there from Israel’s home competitor Kobi Marimi. 

He broke down in tears at the end of it. 

Nailed the performance though, which was old-school Eurovision Stand Up For The Key Change balladry at its most high-octane. 

is2 daragh daragh

Here come ICELAND. 

Israel Eurovision Song Contest AP / PA Images AP / PA Images / PA Images

Hatari have been irritating organisers in Israel a bit this week apparently. 

The BDSM-influenced dystopian (etc. etc.) outfit have been heavily critical of the decision to stage the contest in the country, even though they’ve refused to boycott it. 

The Guardian caught up with the band earlier in the week, for a rather amusing article. A sample: 

While the group’s founding purpose was to overthrow capitalism, they own a for-profit company selling T-shirts and merchandise and brashly advertise their own carbonated water at any opportunity, promising it is “the purest water left on Earth”.

“Of course, dismantling capitalism is an expensive affair,” says one half of the band’s main duo, Matthías Tryggvi Haraldsson, in monotone sarcasm.

Hate Will Prevail was the name of the song. 

Not sure quite what Madonna’s up to in these tweets, but I guess she’s in the building… 

Her performance tonight had been in doubt earlier in the week after confusion over her contract, but that was all cleared up yesterday.

She’ll earn a cool ONE MILLION DOLLARs for appearing tonight. 

According to NBC News: After lengthy negotiations that did not come together until very recently, the Israeli Canadian businessman Sylvan Adams (who calls himself an “ambassador at large for Israel”) finally paid her $1 million fee to appear.

France’s Bilal Hassani has been generating a lot of coverage over the past week. 

The 19-year-old is a well-known Youtuber and first emerged into the limelight in France in 2015 when he took part in the junior edition of The Voice. 


He’s followed by another of the ‘Big Five’ entries (who don’t need to compete in the semi finals), Mahmood from Italy. 

That was quite something from Australia right? 


Kate Miller-Heidke’s ‘Zero Gravity’ is second favourite to win. 

In case you were wondering, Australia (who joined for the contest’s 60th anniversary and decided to stick around) won’t get to host the contest next year if they win. 

According to the rules: “If Australia wins the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, the 2020 contest will be co-hosted by Australian broadcaster SBS and another European public broadcaster, somewhere in Europe.”

That’s it. 

Spain’s Miki finishes off proceedings with a song that could have appeared in the song contest at any point over the past 37 years or so. 


Voting is now open. 

Here’s recap of all the songs if you happen to be in mood to actually vote… 

Eurovision Song Contest / YouTube

In case you’re wondering what’s happening here – essentially a bunch of Eurovision winners and runners up from previous years are singing each other’s songs. 

This is the lineup: 

Marty Whelan made the observation earlier that the host who’s looking after this particular segment sounds a LOT like Steve Carell’s character from Despicable Me and now it’s really all we can hear. 

Illumination / YouTube


So the veteran performer just introduced – apparently as a surprise guest – is Gali Atari, who won the contest for Israel in 1979. 

Ireland’s Johnny Logan won the contest the following year, when it was held in The Hague after Israel declined to host it for the second year in a row. 

Some reflections on likely winners (and related issues) from the Twitterverse: 

Madonna dropped in for chat with host Assi Azar, who, out of the four presenters, seems to be doing most of the heavy lifting tonight. 

It started off with some (presumably unscripted) halting banter about him proposing to her that went from cringe-inducing to very cringe-inducing over the space of what felt like a good 20 minutes.

She had a few things to say too about opposition to her decision to perform at the Israel-hosted contest, ending up by quoting from one of her own songs (“Music makes the people come together”). 

Madonna is on now. Her performance got a little odd about two minutes in. 


There was a lot going on in that Madonna performance, but on balance it doesn’t seem to have gone down particularly well at all on social media. 

This tweet sums up the tenor of the reaction pretty well … there was certainly something strange going on with the sound. 

So. The voting. How does it work? 

As we mentioned at the start of this liveblog, there’s a 50:50 split between the expert jury votes from each country and the viewer votes.

The various spokespeople from the participating countries are reading out the top jury scores (‘douze points’) given to each entry at the moment, after the lower scores (1 through 10) have been displayed across the screen. 

Once that section of the voting is over, the Eurovision presenters will read out the results of the public vote beginning with the country that received the least number of votes and ending with the one that got the highest. 

The country with most votes gets to host it next year (unless Australia wins, in which case it will be held somewhere in Europe). 

If there’s a tie whichever song got the most public votes is declared the winner. 

r daragh daragh

North Macedonia (formerly just plain old Macedonia) surging into the lead now… 


Ireland gave its 12 points to Sweden, just to be different.

Em, pay no attention to those subtitles on the screengrab below (I’m watching on the Eurovision Youtube channel). I don’t recall Sinead Kennedy saying ‘youse clown’ at any point. She was quite professional, in fact.


As North Macedonia solidifies its position at the top of the table, this article might help answer a few of the questions about the country’s name that have been flying about on Twitter. 

name change

A good bit of chatter about political voting cropping up on Twitter at this point of the contest now – Scandinavian countries voting for each other, the likes of Azerbaijan giving its douze points to Russia, that kind of thing. 

Here’s some expert analysis from Maynooth University’s resident Eurovision expert and lecturer in Geography, Dr Adrian Kavanagh: 

“We see that voting patterns for the Eurovision Song Contest were relatively consistent from 1998 onwards, when televoting was brought in and a number of Eastern European countries were taking part.

“Successful, or at least relatively successful countries in Eurovision have generally benefited from having supportive friends and neighbours – most notably in the case of the Former Yugoslav and ex-Soviet states – or by having a strong diaspora across Europe, such as Turkey, Armenia and Romania.

“In fact, we can clearly see countries that lack these two things, such as Switzerland and Slovenia, consistently struggling to score high points in the competition.”

The juries have voted. The popular votes will be announced now. 

Norway just surged to the top of the leaderboard after scoring more than 200 points from the public vote.  

That was pretty dramatic. 

Iceland are now, suddenly, in fourth place. 

The UK ended up with just three points from the public vote and are now rock bottom of the table. 

EUROVISION RESULT: The Netherlands have won the 2019 contest after a tense final face off with Sweden, with the UK finishing last.

This was the winning performance. Duncan Laurence had been favourite to win. 

Eurovision Song Contest / YouTube

The current voting system, designed to keep the tension up until the last moment, means that countries that may have appeared to be out of the running during the jury results section, can suddenly leap to the top of the leaderboard – as we just saw. 

Was the Brexit factor to blame for the UK’s dire performance? 

Michael Rice’s entry ended up with just 16 points tonight, 13 from the jury votes and three from the public. 

The country is one of five European countries that are not required to participate in the semi-finals, due to the amount they contribute to the European Broadcasting Union (which organises the contest). 

We’ll end our Eurovision coverage there. See you next year in Amsterdam! 

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel