Illustration by Caty Bartholomew
There is a schizoidal element to the perennial Eurovision Song Contest which has always fascinated me.

About everyone on this island says that they scorn it and that it is not worth watching. But the show, which will be with us again soon, has one of the highest viewing audiences of the year. And Ireland has won it more often than any other country.

There was an era when we won it almost every year. That era is well and truly over and has been for a long time. Mostly nowadays we don't even qualify from the semi-finals to compete on the big final night.

Relatively trivial events like song contests should not matter at all but dammit, to me at least they do, especially if there is a European competitive dimension and especially under our current social and economic circumstances.

I know I'm mostly a fool, but at a time when we have our begging bowl constantly pushed in front of our European betters it is somehow sad that the island famed for song and music and dance and craic can no longer musically compete even at the pop music level. It's maybe a deeply indicative reality of where we are across the whole scale.

Back when we won the Eurovision almost every year we were able to send fine singers with fine songs into the competition. Many of the songs were submitted by amateur songwriters from all over the country to the national broadcaster RTE which organizes the preliminary national competition to select the Irish entry.

The winners invariably had a Celtic flavor, uniquely Irish, sung by good Irish performers and reflecting the realities of the year.

At a time when the North was ablaze with civil strife, for example, there was a compelling poignancy about the young Derry girl Dana singing the gentle "All Kinds Of Everything.” It swept the boards.

Our Johnny Logan created history by winning not just once but twice, and one of his winners, ironically, bore the title "What's Another Year?"

All those victories were a matter of great national pride. The singers and the songs represented us proudly and well.
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The national competition was staged recently by RTE. It was clear from the very beginning of the show that there could only be one winner.

There are Dublin twin boys called (I think) John and Edward Grimes who trade under the musical name of Jedward, and they are all the pop rage at the moment. Crowds of their teenage fans turned up at RTE when the news spread they were competing.

I'm sure they are lovely lads and I wish them well in their careers, but the truth is that they look ridiculous to anyone of my generation.

They can't really sing, and they are losers on the Eurovision scene. They were also the Irish entry last year, attracted a deal of tabloid coverage because of their appearance and staged antics, and came nowhere in the competition itself.

Frankly they embarrass me. They are the epitome of the crazy Euro pop music scene.

They have their hair blonded and spiked amazingly high atop their heads. They dress like creatures from outer space in blazing costumes of plastic stuff and what looks like metallic piping.

On the credit side, they bring such an amazing element of acrobatic ability to their performances that you almost don't notice they cannot really sing.

The songs chosen for them by those behind them are high energy yokes -- boppity-bops -- with no Irish flavor to them at all.

The teenagers, especially teenage girls, are blown away by them. A high percentage of the national vote is via the texting which suits that teenage generation.

Therefore, Jedward will be representing Ireland again in the Eurovision Song Contest this year and, beyond any reasonable doubt, they will lose again. They might not even qualify for the final.

That should not matter at all but somehow it does. This contest is actually a highly politicized affair. The voting patterns on the final night from all over the continent follow regional linkages.

East Europe votes solidly for East Europe no matter what the song sounds like, and it is likewise with West Europe. It is somehow pathetic that the Irish are wounded if England does not give us as many votes as we give them. But that is the truth!

Tensions are nearly as high on the night as they are at a soccer match. And in the end our Jedward will lose again.

The winning country has the honor of staging the competition the following year. It is a major tourism boost which would suit us very well at the moment. That won't be happening again, probably ever. I feel ridiculous even writing this, but it is a major talking point just at the moment.

The plus side of that, maybe, is that there has been no mention of the euro crisis for days except for the news that our European masters have just put another three billion into our begging bowl to help clear our debts. That's because we are applying our austerity regime so faithfully.

The Lord between us and all harm...

Eurosong Winners 2012 - Jedward - Waterline:

Eurovision 2011 Final Ireland: Jedward - Lipstick: