IRELAND – Former minister for justice Alan Shatter has accused the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) of attempting to bully singer Sarah McTernan into not representing Ireland in the Eurovision. Ms McTernan (24) from Co Clare was chosen to represent Ireland in the Eurovision which takes place in Israel in May. Pro-Palestinian campaigners have called for a boycott of the event which takes place in Tel Aviv. Mr McTernan will perform the chosen song, 22, for the first time on RTÉ’s Dancing with the Stars programme on Sunday evening.
Many of the derogatory comments left on her Facebook page have been removed, but are still there on Twitter:
One tweeted to her: “Hi Sarah, the way the voting works means you have zero chance of winning. However, if you boycott this Eurovision you will be remembered forever.” Another stated: “You will have the respect of the Irish Nation if you pull out now. Don’t ruin your career before it starts.” A third tweeted to her: “I bet you all have a collective orgasm every time you learn of a Palestinian child murdered. Unadulterated evil.”
Mr Shatter, who is a strong supporter of Israel, said there was “no doubt” the IPSC was trying to bully her into not representing Ireland in Israel.
“This is a very talented woman who is being chosen to represent Ireland in the Eurovision. She deserves our support,” she said. “She is completely apolitical. If any other young woman was picked out on social media to be intimidated and harassed, people would be up in arms. These people have lost all sense of proportion and moral values. “I think it is appalling that people think it is alright to intimidate and harass her and try to force her not to go to Tel Aviv.”
Mr Shatter said RTÉ need to ensure that it is not acceptable that she is targeted: “This is a non-political festival. Let everyone get on with it. This is probably the biggest gig she has had yet with an opportunity to progress and be known outside Ireland. She should not be intimidated. The implicit accusation that if she does participate, she is lacking in any conscience. No one should underestimate how unpleasant these groups of people are. This group adds nothing to ending conflict and bringing about reconciliation. Their objective is to demonise the Israeli state and intimidate anyone who might visit it.”
Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign spokeswoman Zoe Lawlor denied the campaign had tried to target her on social media. “We are not trying to bully anyone. We wouldn’t do that. We are respectfully asking her as an artist not to go,” she explained. “Palestinians are being deliberately shot dead while demonstrating for their legal right to return.”
A campaign personally asking her not to go which has been initiated by the IPSC has to date garnered 2,300 signatures. RTÉ says it has no intention of pulling out of the contest. RTÉ’s Eurovision producer Michael Kealy said all 41 countries eligible to participate are taking part: “We are not an organisation that makes political statements. People are perfectly entitled to have a view on this and to protest against it, but it is misguided. This is a song contest. We are not there to make statements or to solve the Middle Eastern conflict.”
He said Ireland had performed in the Eurovision in Israel twice. “There was no discussion about whether or not we would participate,” he said. “At the end of it all it is a musical competition.”