Protesters outside RTÉ call for boycott of the Eurovision

Competition is ‘shameless attempt’ by Israel to ‘whitewash apartheid state’, says Senator

Palestinian rights campaigners have protested outside RTÉ against the broadcaster's decision to participate in this year's Eurovision in Israel.

A petition with 16,500 signatures was handed in to RTÉ on Friday.

The Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign called on singer Sarah McTernan (24) to pull out of the competition.

Spokeswoman Zoë Lawlor said: "Ireland has a proud tradition of standing with the oppressed and against injustice and we sincerely hope that Sarah McTernan will take this opportunity to stand on the right side of history by listening to the Palestinian and international calls for a boycott.


“It would be a principled stand for freedom, justice, equality and a show of solidarity and empathy with the oppressed.”

Several dozen campaigners congregated around a mock apartheid wall at the entrance to RTÉ and on the footbridge across the M11.

Sinn Féin Senator Fintan Warfield said this year's competition in Tel Aviv was "no ordinary Eurovision" but instead a "shameless attempt" by Israel to use the Eurovision to "whitewash an apartheid state".

Mr Warfield, who is a musician too, said Palestinian musicians and artists had called for a boycott of the event.

He claimed Israel would exploit the competition by including “postcards” – television shorts which showcase the country – which will include illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.

The boycott is also supported by the Musicians' Union of Ireland which was present at the protest. The well-known fiddle player Andy Irvine was among those who took part in the demonstration.

McTernan (24) will perform 22, which was co-written by Dutch songwriters Janieck, Roulsen and Marcia “Misha” Sondeijker.

A Co Clare native, she is best known for coming third in the TV series The Voice of Ireland in 2015. Since then she has worked as a make-up artist in Limerick, given birth to a daughter, Mia, 2½ years ago, and formed a wedding band, The Jeds. She unsuccessfully competed to represent San Marino in last year's Eurovision.

When asked how she felt about performing in Israel, she told Ray D’Arcy: “I’m just happy to be representing my country. I’m here for the music and that’s it really.”

Many protesters targeted McTernan on her Facebook and Twitter pages, but RTÉ is unlikely to back down.

Eurovision producer Michael Kealy said RTÉ was a non-political organisation and could not be seen to take sides in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“We are not an organisation that makes political statements. People are perfectly entitled to have a view on this and to protest against it, but it is misguided. This is a song contest. We are not there to make statements or to solve the Middle Eastern conflict.”

He said Ireland had performed in the Eurovision in Israel twice. “There was no discussion about whether or not we would participate,” he said. “At the end of it all it is a musical competition.”

A spokesman for the Israeli embassy said the protesters wished to “promote a cynical, politicised hate campaign against the world’s only Jewish state”.

“Their motives are rooted in support for Palestinian terrorism in Gaza, and are part of the effort to delegitimise Israel as a state and disassociate the Jewish people from their history, heritage and birthplace.”

Eurovision blogger Keith Mills said the 16,000 signatures had to be seen against the hundreds of thousands of people who would watch the competition in May.

“I know it’s a damp day but that’s a very poor turn-out. There will be several times that number of Irish people in Tel Aviv for #eurovision in May. The idea of public support is clearly fanciful.”

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times