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The 'die-in' demonstration outside RTÉ. Mairead Maguire/The Journal

Eurovision: 'Die in' staged at RTÉ as singers and campaigners call for boycott of contest

Former RTÉ producer Betty Purcell told The Journal: “We believe it is not a time to sing songs and clink glasses with Israel.”

A PROTEST CALLING for Ireland to boycott this year’s Eurovision Song Contest due to Israel’s participation in the competition has taken place outside RTÉ Studios in Donnybrook this evening.

The Irish Boycott Eurovision 2024 Coalition, who organised the protest, said Ireland should not take part in the contest and called for Israel, “a genocidal apartheid state”, to be removed from the contest’s platform.

A ‘mini-concert’ is also taking place as part of the demonstration, with actor Stephen Rea, singer Mary Coughlan and Hothouse Flowers frontman Liam Ó Maonlaí – who once fronted the Eurovision interval act – taking part. 

A ‘die in’ was staged by campaigners from the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said to be depicting “Eurovision as a contest actively artwashing Israel’s war crimes”. 

Among the protestors was nurse Deirdre Murphy, who has previously visited the West Bank and says she will “never be able to unsee the horrors”.

“I think Israel should not be allowed to participate in any cultural activities, whether it be music, sport, anything else.”

They are pariahs and they should not be allowed to participate, because what we’re watching is pure evil.

Speaking to The Journal, former RTÉ producer Betty Purcell said: “We believe it is not a time to sing songs and clink glasses with Israel.

“There’s a genocide going on at present. Israel has already killed at least 34,000 people. There’s another 7000 missing under the rubble and 14,500 of the people killed are children,” Purcell said.

She believes that Ireland should have boycotted the contest long ago, but “particularly now” due to the current conflict. 

The semi-finals of Eurovision will be held on 7 and 9 May, with the grand final on Saturday 11 May.

Bambie Thug will represent Ireland with their song Doomsday Blue after winning RTÉ’s Late Late Show Eurosong special and will compete in the first semi-final on 7 May.

The contest this year has already been the subject of a number of boycott campaigns. 

A campaign launched in December called on RTÉ to “immediately withdraw support and participation in the contest next year, if Israel is permitted to compete”.

Last month, a petition containing over 5,000 signatures was delivered to RTÉ’s southern regional studio in Cork urging the broadcaster to refrain from televising this year’s event.

More than 400 Irish artists and creatives, including Eurosong contestant Erica-Cody, also signed an open letter calling on Bambie Thug to boycott Eurovision in April.

Speaking during a recent appearance on the Late Late Show, Bambie Thug said they stand with those who choose to boycott the contest, but that dropping out would mean “less competition” for Israel.

Blues singer Mary Coughlan, who also sang at today’s protest, says Bambie Thug should’ve pulled out.

“For a lot of artists it’s very important, for a lot of other artists, they wouldn’t be bothered,” she said.

“I think [Bambie Thug] has a very different kind of a slant on what it’s all about.

To pull out of it would’ve been even more powerful than staying in.

“Ireland has been associated with the Eurovision forever … people know what it means to us,” said Coughlan.

She added that RTÉ should’ve “done the right thing” by deciding not to broadcast the contest. “They could still do it.”

The European Broadcasting Union previously told The Journal that Eurovision is “a competition for broadcasters – not governments – and the Israeli public broadcaster has participated in the contest for 50 years”.

RTÉ told The Journal that it has “always approached the Eurovision Song Contest in the spirit in which it was founded”.

The RTÉ spokesperson said Eurovision is a “non-political contest designed to unite audiences and bring people together through a shared love of music and entertainment”.

“37 nations including Ireland will take part in the 2024 Eurovision Song Contest. RTÉ is not aware of any participating Public Service Broadcaster who is planning to boycott the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest.”

Israel’s song entry for this year’s Eurovision has also faced scrutiny from the competition’s organisers, resulting in the lyrics being rewritten due to perceived political lyrics relating to the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

Meanwhile, protests are also planned in Malmö to coincide with the song contest. 

A group called ‘Stop Israel’ said “tens of thousands of demonstrators are expected to march through Malmö” on 9 May when Israel performs in its semi-final.

It will also host an alternative, international music contest at the same time as the Eurovision final on 11 May.

The current conflict in Gaza has been ongoing since Hamas’s attack on 7 October, which left around 1,170 people dead, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures. The militants also took about 250 hostages.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed more than 34,500 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

RTÉ has been contacted for comment. 

With reporting by Mairead Maguire

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