With a still record-breaking seven wins under our belts, Ireland has gone through a Eurovision rough patch in the last while. Failing to reach the final seven times in the last 12 years, the country is looking to Ryan O’Shaughnessy and his song ‘Together’ to drag us out of our semi-final slump and put us back on top.
Although our possible savior was already used to big television audiences, having reached the final of Britain’s Got Talent back in 2012, he originally wrote and entered the song into the selection process for another act to perform. After receiving word his song was successful, it wasn’t long before the suggestion came up that maybe Ryan should take a bigger role.
“I had to think about it for a while,” he says, “but throughout my life I’ve been that type of person, if an opportunity arises, I’m going to take it. And my mam said, ‘You have to do it!’”
So far it’s proven to be a good decision, for partying at least. “I’ve got to do so many different things. I was in Lisbon, scuba diving for the postcard shoot. And then we’re off to Israel on Sunday for Israel Is Calling, it’s like a Eurovision pre-party.”
The video accompanying ‘Together’ depicts a young gay male couple lovingly dancing through Temple Bar. There were reports it could face a broadcast ban in Russia due to the country’s anti-gay propaganda stance. Despite this, Ryan sees a positive outcome. “It’s sparking conversation among people and it’s raising awareness,” he says. “Ireland might be accepting of it, but ‘love is love’ is not everywhere.
“If there was a girl in the video, there wouldn’t have been any conversation about this, so it kind of highlights the fact that it’s not really accepted just yet.”
Could the controversy actually help the song’s chances?
“They say any publicity is good publicity,” Ryan says. “It might help the song’s chances but most importantly where it will help is with kids who are growing up and not knowing that what they’re feeling is normal. A friend of mine said that when he was a kid he was watching TV and there were two guys kissing and he was, ‘Whoah, like, that’s what I’ve been feeling’. So hopefully this could be that, on a different level.
“My videos in the past have always had pairs. When I released ‘Fingertips’ two years ago, I got my cousin’s two kids to run through Dame Lane. For a Christmas song, I got my grandparents to walk through town, and my grandad gave my nana a kiss on the cheek. Then when it came to this song, I just decided, why not two guys? There wasn’t really a conscious decision making it a gay theme.”
What may surprise some is that Ryan is not the first member of his family to represent Ireland in the competition. “My uncle actually sang for Ireland in 2001 – Gary O’Shaughnessy. So it’s a family affair at this stage.”
When asked if there was competition between them over who would do better, Ryan jokes: “If I do as bad as him, they won’t be letting me back in to the country!”
While he has been listening to his competitor’s songs, they haven’t been making him too nervous. “I don’t really see it as a competition,” he says. “I just see it as going out and giving it your best. It’s not really competition when you have no say in how you can affect their show, or how they can affect yours.”
Ryan is confident that the public’s support will pull Ireland out of the Euro-slump. “If people get behind it and there’s good energy pumped towards it, I think we can get into the final,” he says with supreme optimism.
There’s a lot of gays hoping he’s right.
Interview by Peter Dunne Ireland performs in the first Eurovision Song Contest semi-final in Lisbon on May 8. The final takes place on May 12