Democratic Unionist Party leader Jeffrey Donaldson has waded into the ongoing controversy over Eurovision winner Dana Rosemary Scallon’s exclusion from RTÉ’s upcoming concert to celebrate Eurovision.
The RTÉ Concert Orchestra’s Eurovision Night is set to take place on October 13 in the National Concert Hall, and will be hosted by Marty Whelan, who also anchors RTÉ’s annual TV coverage of the contest.
Donaldson’s input has been described as an ‘unprecedented intervention,’ with the head of the DUP calling the snub a ‘huge error’ on the part of the broadcaster. It comes as the politician penned a letter to RTÉ’s Director General, Dee Forbes, demanding she give an explanation for the exclusion.
Gript has previously reached out to Ms Forbes for an explanation, but she did not comment or offer a statement regarding the ‘hurtful’ and seemingly deliberate exclusion of the Eurovision icon. Forbes, who is the chief executive and editor-in-chief of the public and national broadcaster, has so far remained silent on the debacle, which ignited anger and disbelief from many, after Dana was the only Eurovision winner to be excluded from the star-studded bash, an obvious and puzzling omission.
The Northern Ireland MP says he remembered when Dana was crowned Ireland’s very first Eurovision winner in 1970, aged just 18, with the song ‘All Kinds of Everything’.
Speaking to the Irish Sun, he spoke about the unifying power of that triumph, which came at a time when the Bogside in Derry was beset by ferocious rioting and sectarian violence. Both bishops at the time of Dana’s Eurovision triumph expressed hope that the Derry schoolgirl’s victory would help to unite the troubled city, with Dana helping to capture the hearts of Ireland north and south amid the bitterness and tragedy of the Troubles.
Mr Donaldson told the paper:
“I am a passionate unionist and I believe fervently in Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom. I also believe music is something that brings people together.
“I was very young when Dana won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1970 but I remember it was something that united people at a really difficult time, and during our darkest days in history.
”I wrote to RTE’s Director General Dee Forbes simply asking why Dana was excluded in the planning stages for this major event”.
Donaldson’s comments follow reports that Dana did not attend rehearsals for the event last week, following RTÉ’s failure to publicly issue a formal apology to the singer. RTÉ has insisted the exclusion was not deliberate, despite the fact marketing and promotion for the event had been finalised without including Dana.
In a statement issued to Gript last month, the national broadcaster said that while it “apologised to [Dana] for any embarrassment caused”, “as is often the case with live performances, we had not contacted or confirmed all artists by the time we had to publicise the concert”. RTE’s press release was not released to the media, and was rather published on the ‘about’ section on its website, prompting claims that the statement could not therefore constitute a sincere apology.
While RTE claimed it had made “a number of attempts to speak directly to Dana,” sources told Gript this was not the case, and that while every department in RTE has Dana’s contact details, there was a blanket failure to personally apologise to the singer, who admitted she was “extremely hurt” by its actions.
A source close to Dana told Gript that the Director General’s decision not to comment on the fiasco is unacceptable and insulting, insisting that Forbes, who is one of 22 staff members in the earning bracket of €150,000 to €250,000, should have a responsibility and obligation to address the public furore, and be held accountable.