Brand New Retro: Eurovision, Dublin, 1971

Posted May 8, 2018 in More

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Staging Ireland’s first ever Eurovision was a massive undertaking for RTE. But it was a success and proved we could put on a show as tacky, glitzy and expensive as anyone else. Here are 30 trivia facts on the Eurovision in Dublin in April 1971:

  • Over 350 delegates from 17 countries arrived 6 days before the show.
  • A further 300 journalists arrived during the week.
  • Guinness, Trinity College, Dublin Castle and various nightclubs entertained the visitors.
  • Dana performed her show every night of the week at Jury’s hotel.
  • Hot pants were everywhere. At rehearsals, on the streets and in the clubs. In the Irish Times, Maeve Binchy wrote: “Every foreign woman seen around Dublin this week seems to have an entire wardrobe of hot pants or culottes”.

  • 350 RTE staff and 40 Gaiety staff worked on the production which cost £35,000.
  • Alpho O’Reilly designed the set of fibreglass swirls. He took inspiration from 18th century Irish glass and silver.
  • RTE had only broadcast colour on one occasion before the Eurovision.
  • The Gaiety, celebrating its centenary year, had a capacity for just 700 people.
  • Bernadette Ní Ghallchóir hosted the show and spoke in Irish, French and English.

  • Just two of the 18 songs performed were in English (Ireland & UK).
  • The Irish branch of the Celtic League criticised RTE for failing to choose an Irish song.
  • Ireland’s singer was nineteen year-old Angela Farrell from Portadown.
  • This was the third year in a row that a Northern Ireland woman represented Ireland.
  • The UK singer, Clodagh Rodgers, also came from Northern Ireland.
  • The BBC, concerned how the Irish audience would react to a UK singer on stage, chose an Irish woman – Clodagh.

  • It’s alleged that Clodagh received death threats for representing the UK.
  • Bernadette Ni Ghallchoir wore an Ib Jorgensen creation while Angela Farrell wore a long pink dress designed by Mary O’Donnell. Clodagh wore spangled hot pants and a pink top.
  • Each song was introduced with a 20 second video clip from the country concerned
  • The Irish video featured footage of the new Aer Lingus Jumbo jet.
  • A six minute video promoting Ireland as a tourist destination was shown during the interval. The video featured the typical Irish tourist fare; Bunratty Castle, horses, carts, dancing and a man taking snuff. Another scene showed a drag hunt with hounds, horses and riders.
  • The Irish Council Against Blood Sports threatened to place a picket outside the Gaiety because of the drag hunt scene.
  • The Irish Women’s liberation movement protested outside the Gaiety. They handed out a leaflet explaining that the women of Ireland had little to sing about. They warned visitors that if they brought contraceptives into the Republic of Ireland then they were criminals and liable to prosecution.
  • The RTE Workers Anti Redundancy Group stated that “Eurovision involved RTE in needless expenses which it could ill-afford”.
  • The jury give their scores live on the Gaiety stage. There was no link up with panels and voters in the other countries.
  • Each country provided two jurors. One under 25 and the other over 25.

  • Gay Byrne calculated and announced the scores, but he did not appear on screen.
  • Monaco won. Ireland came 11th, and the UK came 4th.
  • The show having started at 9.45 pm ended at 11.45 pm with the production credits rolling to the tune of Danny Boy.
  • The after party took place at the State Apartments in Dublin Castle, finishing at 4am.


New Spotlight Eurovision Souvenir Special, April 1971. Cover illustration by Kevin O’Brien.

Clodagh Rodgers from Warrenpoint, Co Down represented the UK.

Hot pants were everywhere! Irish models Taffy (left) and Mary at the River Club during Eurovision week. Photo by Roy Esmonde from New Spotlight Magazine, April 1971

Bernadette Ní Ghallchóir, host of the show.

Words: Brian McMahon


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