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Getting set for Euro fever


Linda Martin told David Hennessy about winning the Eurovision in 1992, that people love the Eurovision no matter what they say and why we should never have ‘sent the turkey’.

Eurovision winners Linda Martin and Niamh Kavanagh come to the London Irish Centre this week for their Eurovision party.

Ahead of this year’s event in Liverpool, this night promises to be a night of music, nostalgia and that Eurovision fun.

Linda Martin won the Eurovision Song Contest for Ireland in 1992 with the song, Why Me?

This was her second time representing Ireland. She sang for Ireland in 1984 when she placed second with the song Terminal 3.

 This is a rare record for Martin, representing your country twice but also finishing first and second.

Linda’s involvement with Eurovision did not end there as she was also a judge and mentor on RTE’s You’re A Star, the talent show that looked to unearth Ireland’s Eurovision entrant, and mentored Jedward in their pursuit of Eurovision glory.

Niamh Kavanagh won the Eurovision for Ireland in 1993 with the song In Your Eyes.

Niamh would go on to represent Ireland again when she sang for Ireland in 2010 with It’s For You.

The Irish World caught up with Linda Martin ahead of this Friday’s party to talk about Eurovision memories and what Ireland have to do if they are to win a Eurovision again.

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Linda told The Irish World: “I’m absolutely looking to Friday.

“I’m looking forward to the gig and catching up with everybody who has been writing to me about it and sending me emails and all sorts of things.

“It will be fabulous. Absolutely Fabulous.

“Niamh Kavanagh and myself are very good friends.

“I’ve worked with her many times now in the past but never just as a twosome so that’s going to be a great night. The atmosphere will be fantastic.

“I think there’s a little bit of chat between the two of us to the audience. And I’d say the questions are going to be mental as usual but it’ll be great fun.”

Linda Martin in1992.

You can be sure any chance to reminisce on that magical night in 1992 is welcome for Linda.

Was it one of the greatest nights of your life? “Absolutely. I’ve nothing but wonderful memories, but it’s all gone past too quickly.

“For me, it seems like it’s only yesterday but then I suddenly realise, ‘Jaysus it’s 30 years ago or something like that’.

“I’m always reminded about it, they love it.

“No matter what anybody says, people actually do love the Eurovision.

“And I get this all the time, ‘Tell us what it was like on the night’.

“Or from women, ‘Tell me about your dress. You still have the dress?’

“And of course I do.

“It’s in the wardrobe and it doesn’t fit so well anymore,” she laughs.7

It was in Malmo, Sweden that Linda’s triumph would come.

She beat Michael Ball singing for the UK by 16 points to claim first place.

“It really sank in when we had the party afterwards.

“We got back to the hotel and up into one of the suites- I think it was Sony records who had one of the hotel suites- and all I remember is bottles of champagne being wheeled in on a trolley.

“Now, I was fairly careful that night, some of us weren’t and there was a ferry.

“At that stage you had to get a ferry from Sweden across to Copenhagen for the flight home and I’m telling you there were disasters on that ferry- There were people hanging over the side of it.”

Niamh Kavanagh after her win in 1993.

On her return home, Linda was a national hero.

“I came back to a huge celebration.

“Coming back the press were at the airport and we just seem to ricochet from party to party.

“We had the celebrations after the win, and the next day, we get on the Aer Lingus flight to come home and they threw a party on board.

“Then we arrived in Dublin Airport and Aer Rianta had another party for us in the airport itself.

“So we seemed to just go from party to party and then the Lord Mayor’s reception on the Tuesday.

“I just said at that point, ‘If I see any more champagne, I’m going to be sick’.

“I couldn’t take it any longer.

“But it was just the feeling, the happiness, and I’m talking about everybody.

“I’m not just talking about myself, it was the feeling from everybody in Ireland and the pride that they had in the fact that Ireland had won again.

“It’s just great fun. It’s the good will.

“I always love that, the fact that the good will comes towards you and people can talk and it brings people together. There’s no question about that.

“When I’m working around Europe and they have Eurovision conventions, there could be a dentist in front of me or a plumber or a veterinary surgeon, it’s all mixed.

“It’s just people who actually love the camaraderie and the craic that you get at these Eurovision things.

“Music is supposed to bring joy to people and that’s really what it should be about.

“And then of course, we won for how many years was it afterward.”

With Linda and Niamh winning the Eurovision in 1992 and 1993 respectively, it would become three in a row when Paul Harrington and Charlie McGettigan won with Rock n Roll Kids in 1994. Eimear Quinn’s The Voice in 1996 would make it four in five years.

However, Linda points out that Ireland had a hand in the 1995 win. When Secret Garden won for Norway, one of the two members was Fionnuala Sherry.

“Fionnuala Sherry’s Irish.”

It seems a long time since Ireland had such an embarrassment of success in the competition.

“Once we sent the turkey, that was the end of it.

“That was very bad move.

“It was a very, very bad move and the Europeans thought, ‘You think you can send anybody to Eurovision and you’ll win’.

“It was just the wrong move totally.

“The way I feel about it is we just need to up our game.

“We need to get the amazing songwriters back out again and we need to nurture the young talent that’s coming through so that they’ve got some experience if they’re selected to sing for Ireland because it’s a huge venue, a huge experience and if you send somebody out there, this complete amateur with no experience, they’re just going to be bottle. And I’ve seen it happen.”

As we said, Linda had previously represented Ireland finishing as runner up in 1984 at the final in Luxembourg.

Did this disappointment make her win all the sweeter? “Yes, you hit the nail on the head.

“I was very naive in 1984.

“Really and truly, I didn’t know what was in front of me.

“But going back the second time, I just knew what to do a good bit better and I worked it a hell of a lot better than the first time around.”

How did it feel to come so close and finish in second place? “I couldn’t believe it but do you know, something? We went off in the lead.

“The first vote that came in was 12 for Ireland and I remember thinking at the time, ‘If this was a horse race, the horse won’t win’.

“You know the way the horses change? The leader doesn’t always win.

“I just realised that myself and I thought, ‘Well, it’s a shame’.

“To tell you the God’s honest truth, it was unexpected that we even came second.

“It really was a great thing.

“RTE were delighted.

“But it’s just the way these things go.”

Linda was second behind Herrey, the Swedish pop group made up of the Herrey brothers.

“I’ve met Herrey since then and I remember saying to one of them, ‘I wish to Jaysus I’d nailed your golden boots to the floor that night’.

“But they’re nice guys, not involved in showbusiness anymore but they are nice guys.”

The Eurovision meant a great deal to Linda growing up.

She had watched Ireland triumph in the past. She also saw it as her way out of Ireland where she felt ‘stuck’.

“Dana won in 1970.

“I remember watching her winning and I thought, ‘I want to do that. I want to be the winner of Eurovision’.

“It took a long time before it happened but she put my sights on it.

“And when you think about it, I’m not a songwriter so I rely on singing other people’s songs.

“In those circumstances, I couldn’t get out of Ireland.

“I was stuck here on the road night after night doing the gigs with the band and all that thing.

“Eurovision was the only way I could see that would take me into Europe, I could work in Europe and further on America or whatever.

“But that for me was just the goal, win it and then leave Ireland for a while.

“That’s what I wanted. That was the goal.

“Where else would you be performing on TV when 300 million people could see you?’”

There was no X Factor back then, no opportunities like that…

“Not at all. Nothing like that.

“You just got out and you worked.

“And to be honest with you, I love it. I still love the Eurovision connections and everything.

“I really am looking forward to next week.”

Linda was involved in You’re A Star, the talent show that found performers like Micky Joe Harte and Chris Doran who represented Ireland in the Eurovision.

“It was great,” Linda says of this experience.

“I like mentoring people.

“I mentored Jedward when they were in Eurovision.

“I like being part of it.

“The Eurovision has been so kind to me that I always want to give back.

“I want to be involved.”

What does Linda say to Wild Youth who are set to represent Ireland this time around? “All I ever say is the very, very best of luck because it’s a lottery.

“We really don’t know who’s going to win at the end of the day.

“As long as they do their best, and I’m sure they will, that’s all that matters.”

Back to this Friday night in Camden, those coming along should expect a night of music, nostalgia and fun? “Yes. Absolutely.

“I know that Niamh and myself are going to be doing some duets, and there’s a little bit of chat and hopefully lots of craic.”

Has Linda always enjoyed getting to London? “Oh, yes. Oh, absolutely.

“There’s no question about that at all.

“For years when I was singing in the band, we used to do the Irish ballrooms. The Gresham, The Galtymore..

“I can remember the thousands of people dancing in those ballrooms, all Irish.

“It was fantastic just the sheer volume of people.

“It amazed me.

“In Ireland if we were on stage at 11, people didn’t come in until about 10.30 but I do remember In London they were in and they were eating and drinking and just enjoying themselves. It was fantastic.

“I’ve great memories of working in the UK, especially London.”

Linda presents Paul Byrom with his Irish World award at The Galtymore.

Linda joined us for The Irish World awards in Galtymore on multiple occasions including in 2008.

“Do you know who I was sitting beside? Ken Loach.

“I was sitting beside him that night and I was rattling away to him.

 “I didn’t know who he was. He was just introduced as Ken and I was introduced as Linda and I remember sitting talking to him: A terribly nice man.

“But we used to have great craic.

“Joe Dolan was there the last night that I attended.

“I remember him getting up on stage and then we all went back to the hotel afterwards and Joe was holding court in the bar and I was sitting talking to all the Irish singers and everything. It was wonderful.

“It was a fantastic night.”

Linda has been making headlines lately but for nothing to do with her singing.

She recently publicly launched her new dog shelter with the help of several high profile celebrities.

“We press launched it four weeks ago.

“I absolutely love animals and I’m heavily involved in animal welfare.

“And that particular day, Ian McKellen was in Dublin.

“And I just thought, ‘I’m going to ask him would he come along and cut the ribbon for me.

“So contact was made with Ian McKellen, who’s an incredibly nice man, and he said yes.

“And John Bishop says, ‘Well, my wife has an animal sanctuary. Can I come along as well?’

“So he wanted to come along.

“Louis Walsh was there, Anne Doyle news reader, Brendan Courtney- It was absolutely incredible.

“We had the most amazing day with Irish dancers.

“A priest came in- A friend of mine is a priest and he’s doing the prayer of St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.

“We had the most amazing day.

“Louis Walsh says to me, ‘It was like an episode of Father Ted, absolutely bizarre’.”

London Irish Centre’s Eurovision Party, featuring Linda Martin and Niamh Kavanagh, is Friday 5 May from 8pm.

For more information and to book, click here.

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