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Netta, who won the contest for Israel this year. SIPA USA/PA Images

RTÉ won't sanction employees who refuse to travel to Israel for Eurovision

Campaigners have called for next year’s contest to be boycotted.

RTÉ WILL NOT sanction any member of staff who doesn’t wish to travel to Israel for next year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

Director General Dee Forbes and others from RTÉ on Wednesday met with representatives of an Irish campaign group which is calling for the contest to be boycotted.

During the meeting members of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign presented a petition with over 11,000 signatures backing such a move. The group said it wants Ireland to shun the event “due to Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people”.

In a statement released after the meeting, the group said the RTÉ representatives stated that they “will take away all that has been said and think about it”, and noted that there “will not be any sanction against anyone from within RTÉ who doesn’t wish travel on conscientious grounds”.

Representatives from RTÉ are also quoted as saying the broadcaster is “well aware that the Irish people are very concerned about and supportive of Palestinians” and “will not just be covering [the Eurovision] as an entertainment event and, bearing in mind everything that has been discussed, will be covering it more widely”.

A spokesperson for RTÉ confirmed to that the quotes attributed to staff are accurate.

‘Ugly regime’ 

John Dorman, Vice Chairperson of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said Israel is “determined to put forward a pretty face to hide its ugly regime of settler colonialism, apartheid and brutal military occupation”.

He called on RTÉ to “listen to the Irish people” and withdraw from the competition.

“This simple act of solidarity with the oppressed would send out a very powerful message to Israel that we will not stand on the wrong side of history and will support the Palestinian people in their darkest hour,” Dorman stated.

Betty Purcell, a former RTÉ producer and former member of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, said she is “aware that a number of RTÉ journalists and programme personnel are deeply concerned about this” and “are seeking trade union and legal advice on their position” should they refuse to travel to Israel.

A spokesperson for RTÉ confirmed that any member of staff who doesn’t wish to travel to Israel for the 64th annual contest will not be sanctioned.

They noted that, as a public service broadcaster and member of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), RTÉ “has registered to take part in the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest”.

“RTÉ is not aware of any regularly participating Public Service Broadcaster who is planning to boycott the Eurovision Song Contest,” the spokesperson added.

Tel Aviv 

Earlier this month the EBU confirmed that Tel Aviv would host next year’s contest, beating out bids by Jerusalem and Eilat. The semi-finals will take place on 14 and 16 May 2019, and the final will take place on 18 May. 

Israel has previously hosted the contest in 1979 and 1999. RTÉ sent an act to compete in the contest on both those occasions.

Last weekend Tánaiste Simon Coveney announced that additional funding of €1 million will be given from Ireland to the UN Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). This brings Ireland’s total funding to the UNRWA this year to €7 million, our highest ever contribution.

The announcement was made during a visit of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to Ireland. At least 176 Palestinians in Gaza and one Israeli have been killed since protests and clashes again erupted in the region on 30 March.

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