Protesters call for Irish national broadcaster to boycott Eurovision

The Irish national broadcaster has stood by a decision to participate in this year’s Eurovision as demonstrators protested outside RTE’s main studios.

On Thursday, dozens of people gathered outside the RTE campus in Dublin protesting against Israel’s participation this year’s song contest.

The event featured human rights activists, artists, musicians and a staged “die-in” where several protesters played dead on the ground to represent health workers who have been killed in Israel’s military operation.

Organised by the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC), the protesters said Eurovision was “actively ‘artwashing’ Israel’s war crimes”.

Among the participants were jazz singer Honor Heffernan, and several other musicians, while award-winning actor Stephen Rea read Refaat Alareer’s poem If I Should Die.

MB094P February 16th, 2018 – BerlinActor Stephen Rea read a poem by a Palestinian poet (ALamy/PA)
MB094P February 16th, 2018 – BerlinActor Stephen Rea read a poem by a Palestinian poet (ALamy/PA)

IPSC’s chair and spokeswoman for the boycott coalition said Ireland should withdraw from the competition.

Zoe Lawlor said: “Israel’s President Yitzhak Herzog has stated ‘it’s important for Israel to appear in Eurovision’.

“We say the opposite. It’s vital to exclude the genocidal apartheid state of Israel from this global cultural platform.”

The IPSC wrote to RTE director-general Kevin Bakhurst and the board of the broadcaster to respect the Palestinian boycott request.

A spokeswoman for the national broadcaster said: “RTE has always approached the Eurovision Song Contest in the spirit in which it was founded – which 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. RTE is not aware of any participating Public Service Broadcaster who is planning to boycott the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest.”

Irish entrant Bambie Thug has previously backed “an immediate and lasting ceasefire” but has refused to boycott the event.

Kerrang! Awards 2022
Irish Eurovision entrant Bambie Thug (Suzan Moore/PA)

Alongside UK contender Olly Alexander and Danish hopeful Saba, the artists said in a statement: “In light of the current situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and particularly in Gaza, and in Israel, we do not feel comfortable being silent.

“It is important to us to stand in solidarity with the oppressed and communicate our heartfelt wish for peace, an immediate and lasting ceasefire, and the safe return of all hostages. We stand united against all forms of hate, including antisemitism and Islamophobia.

“We firmly believe in the unifying power of music, enabling people to transcend differences and foster meaningful conversations and connections.

“We feel that it is our duty to create and uphold this space, with a strong hope that it will inspire greater compassion and empathy.”