The most recent of Ireland’s record-setting seven winning songs is at No. 366, 58 places higher than win No. 6 (see No. 424). Higher too than win No. 4 – Linda Martin’s Why Me fell short of the Top 500 – but lower than Dana, two Johnny Logans and a Niamh Kavanagh, all of which are yet to come.
The Voice was written by Tipperary man Brendan Graham. Graham has a distinguished Eurovision pedigree stretching back to 1976 having written Ireland’s entry that year, When by Red Hurley, which finished 10th. He was also responsible for Ireland’s 1985 entry, Wait Until The Weekend Comes by Maria Christian (6th) as well as 1994’s winner, Rock’n’Roll Kids, for Paul Harrington and Charlie McGettigan (see No. 424). But he is probably best known for penning the lyrics to You Raise Me Up, a No. 1 hit in the UK and Ireland for Westlife, which he co-wrote with Rolf Løvland of Secret Garden – Eurovision winners in 1996, sandwiched between Brendan Graham’s two Irish victories.
The original intention was for folk band Dervish to perform The Voice, but that plan was ditched after Graham attended a concert by the Anúna choir at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin at Christmas 1995. Anúna are best known for the choral introduction to 1994’s interval act Riverdance. Eimear Quinn, who joined the choir after their Eurovision appearance, performed a solo at the concert in St Patrick’s and on hearing her Brendan Graham knew he had his singer. Dervish eventually got their Eurovision chance in 2007 but with a much weaker song: They Can’t Stop The Spring, written by Irish journalist (and former partner of Sinéad O’Connor) John Waters, which finished last.
For reasons of language and proximity the United Kingdom have given their 12 points to Ireland more times than to any other nation (for reasons of politics this hasn’t been reciprocated). Eight times the UK’s maximum mark went to Ireland: for both Johnny Logan’s winners in 1980 and 1987; for Niamh Kavanagh’s winner, In Your Eyes, in 1993; even in 1970, under a different scoring system, the UK gave their (joint) highest mark to Dana. In 1996, however, the Brits turned their backs completely on their western neighbours and gave Eimear Quinn no points at all – the only one of Ireland’s seven wins not to receive points from the UK.
Despite the UK’s snub The Voice romped home, nearly 50 points ahead of Elisabeth Andreassen’s I Evighet in 2nd. The song did graze the UK chart, reaching No. 40 – better than Brendan Graham’s earlier winner, Rock’n’Roll Kids, which had missed the chart completely – but was nothing like as successful as that year’s UK entry by Gina G. Ooh Aah…Just A Little Bit topped the UK chart, was a huge hit throughout Europe and even made the US Top 20. The fact that it only finished 8th underlined how out-of-touch with mainstream musical taste Eurovision had become by the late 1990s.
Eimear Quinn found, as most Eurovision winners do, that her victory was not a springboard to international stardom (to be fair, Gina G sunk back into obscurity fairly soon too) but through the contest she did manage to bag herself a husband: head of the Irish delegation in Oslo was a certain Noel Curran, Noel is now Director General of Irish broadcaster RTÉ and Eimear Quinn has become Mrs Eimear Curran.