Eurovision song contest: Irish winners take tour down memory lane

Music fans from across Europe have flocked to Belfast for one of the biggest Eurovision nostalgia shows ever to be staged.

Dana Dana is returning to the stage following her participation in the Irish presidential campaign

Ireland's previous Eurovision song contest winners are touring together for the first time, almost 20 years since the last Irish victory.

Johnny Logan, Dana, Linda Martin and Niamh Kavanagh are among the acts taking fans on a trip down memory lane.

With seven wins, Ireland is still the most successful country in the contest.

But what effect did the competition have on Ireland and what are the chances of the country ever winning it again?

Ireland first won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1970, with Dana singing All Kinds of Everything.

The win made her an instant star across Europe and set the ball rolling for another six wins for Ireland in the Eurovision.

Ireland's Eurovison winners

  • 1970 - Dana: All Kinds of Everything
  • 1980 - Johnny Logan: What's Another Year?
  • 1987 - Johnny Logan: Hold me now
  • 1992 - Linda Martin: Why Me?
  • 1993 - Niamh Kavanagh: In Your Eyes
  • 1994 - Paul Harrington and Charlie McGettigan: Rock n Roll Kids
  • 1996 - Eimear Quinn: The Voice
'Exclusive club'

That of course meant Ireland was able to host the competition and show the country off to the millions of Eurovision fans across the world.

Johnny Logan, or 'Mister Eurovision', won the contest twice for Ireland in 1980 and 1987.

He also wrote the winning song in 1992.

Speaking to the BBC on opening night, he explained why now is the right time for the tour.

"We've been asked loads of times to do a tour but it's never really felt right. This is a proper production with sets and orchestras and it felt like the right time.

"The reality of it is we are members of a very exclusive club. There are not too many people who can say they have won the Eurovision and to have so many of us in Ireland is a great honour.

Linda Martin who won in 1992 with Why Me? echoed what Johnny said.

Start Quote

Eurovision gave Ireland confidence. It encouraged self belief in the country and it gave the people that self belief as well”

End Quote Johnny Logan Eurovision winner

"This tour has been mooted many times but this is going to be an extravaganza. We have an orchestra like the good old days. It's great to have such a great team on board.

"We'll be taking fans back to the golden days of the competition. We already know fans are flying in from as far away as Germany to relive their experiences of being here all those years ago."

Johnny and Linda will be joined on the stage by Dana, Niamh Kavanagh, Paul Harrington and Charlie McGettigan.

The only Irish winner who is absent from the tour is Eimear Quinn who took the prize back to Ireland for a seventh time in 1996 with The Voice.

Celtic Tiger

Ireland won the Eurovision in 1992, 1993 and 1994. Ireland's boom years and the Celtic Tiger economy began in 1995. So did the Eurovision have anything to do with Ireland's increased confidence?

"It certainly helped, Eurovision gave Ireland confidence. It encouraged self-belief in the country and it gave the people that self-belief as well," Johnny told us.

"In a time when Ireland had nothing, the Eurovision was something that Ireland could do well in. It was very patriotic and gave people hope.

Start Quote

Nowadays there is nowhere for talent to develop unless you go on the X Factor or a show like that”

End Quote Linda Martin Eurovision winner

Linda Martin believed that with Ireland hosting the competitions, the traditional image of Ireland that was projected helped boost the country's tourism reputation.

"The tourist industry that happened around the competition was great. Everyone was employed or working in some way because of the competition.

"Five hundred million people watched the Eurovision. They were caught up in the moment. They saw thatch cottages and people drinking Guinness and people just wanted to be in Ireland after that. It really helped the economy and really gave Ireland a huge boost.

Jedward

In recent years, Ireland has not done so well in the competition. With acts failing to make the finals and novelty acts like Dustin the Turkey failing to impress.

Even Jedward, who were early favourites in this year's competition, did not do as well as initially hoped.

So could the country ever win it again?

Linda Martin was in Azerbaijan this year mentoring Jedward but believes the problem is in finding new talent.

"The thing today is there isn't really anywhere for new singers to be found, we used to work in the cabarets and the discos and people got to see you develop.

"Nowadays there is nowhere for talent to develop unless you go on the X Factor or a show like that.

"We need to find new talent and help develop them. I think Johnny should write another ballad. Ireland can win this competition again and we can do it with a ballad."

So with Ireland's biggest Eurovision names touring together. Could this be the start of a formation of a super group that could help bring the title back after almost 20 years?

As Linda says, "Never say never."

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