'I'm really really happy to represent Ireland' - Sarah McTernan addresses calls to boycott Eurovision in Israel
Former Eurovision commentator Mike Murphy and Derry Girls star Siobhan McSweeney among a raft of high profile Irish people voicing support for 'cultural boycott'
Ireland's Eurovision representative Sarah McTernan has addressed calls for her, and State broadcaster RTE, to boycott the contest.
The Clare singer has been busy rehearsing the song '22' in Tel Aviv this week with the Irish Eurovision contingent ahead of her performance in Thursday night's second semi-final.
Eurovision has come under fire from the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign which accuses Israel of using music to 'whitewash' its policy towards Palestinians.
On Tuesday, pop icon Madonna responded to criticism from Palestinian activists about her plan to perform at the final on Saturday night, stating that she wanted to use her performance to create "a new path toward peace".
Pressure has also been mounting in Ireland in recent weeks. Last month LGBT campaigners signed an open letter to Sarah urging her to boycott the contest.
The authors of the letter, who are part of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign, also claimed the Middle Eastern country is supporting the LGBT community for the purpose of “whitewashing” its oppression of the Palestinian people.
The 19 signatories to the letter included prominent campaigners such as Senator David Norris and Ailbhe Smyth.
None of the 42 acts taking part in Eurovision have pulled out and Sarah will sing as planned on Thursday night in the hope of making the Eurovision final on Saturday.
However, speaking ahead of the first semi-final on Tuesday, she said, "I respect everybody’s opinion, completely and utterly. For me, I’m just really, really happy to represent my country. I’m really honoured to be representing in Eurovision 2019 for Ireland."
She added that Eurovision is "all about the music" and "all about bringing people together".
"You’d only have to kind of be at the event, at one of the Eurovision ensembles where people are mixing as in right before our performances to know that it really does bring people together from all walks of life.
"Look at Hatari and then Australia. It really is heartwarming. I’ve really made true friends for life. For me music is about love, music is about friendship, and bringing people together, and that’s what it’s all about."
Hatari, the BDSM band representing Iceland in the contest, have stated that Eurovision in Israel is "built on a lie" but opted to take part and have made it through to the final with their song Hate Will Prevail'.
On Saturday night, several high profile Irish artists including Kila, Christy Moore and former Eurovision winner Charlie McGettigan, will take part in the ‘Palestine: You’re a Vision’ concert at the bar venue of the National Stadium.
The concert, from Palfest Ireland: Arts Festival Supporting Palestine, will also be live streamed to compete with the Eurovision final on the night of May 18.
This week, former RTE Eurovision commentator Mike Murphy stated his support of a "cultural boycott" of Israel in a video ahead of the PalFest concert.
"Like many of you I'm sure I'm very concerned about the re-election of Netanyahu and his promise to annex the internationally illegal settlements and bring them into what he would call the legitimate state of Israel," he said.
"It's extremely worrying, and for many of us we would be worried that that really signifies the end of any possible two-state solution, so would I join a cultural boycott of Israel? I absolutely would."
He concluded, "I want to wish anybody connected with the alternative Eurovision all the very best. I hope it's a huge success. Douze points to the lot of you."
Derry Girls' star Siobhan McSweeney has also stated her support, "I stand with my fellow actors and activists in calling for a culturel boycott of Israel."