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Irish Eurovision contestant Bambie Thug forced to change pro-Palestinian message by organizers

Irish Eurovision contestant Bambie Thug has been forced to change his pro-Palestinian message by contest organizers.

The non-binary contestant became Ireland’s first Eurovision Song Contest finalist since 2018, winning a place in Saturday’s (May 11) final with a performance of their track ‘Doomsday Blue’ during yesterday’s semi-final (May 7).

However, the artist, real name Bambie Ray Robinson, criticized competition organizers after he was forced to change their pro-Palestinian message ahead of the final. They originally wore body paint in Ogham script – an early medieval alphabet – which translated to ceasefire and freedom. It was a nod to the ongoing conflict in Gaza and in light of Israel’s inclusion in the competition.

According to a spokesperson for the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the painting “breached competition rules designed to protect the apolitical nature of the event” (via Evening standard).

Speaking about the change, Bambie Thug said: “It was very important to me because I’m pro-justice and pro-peace. Unfortunately, I had to change these messages today to just ‘crown the witch’ (which was an) order from the EBU.”

The grand final of the Eurovision Song Contest will take place in Malmö, Sweden this Saturday, May 11. Ireland has not won the competition in almost 30 years, winning in 1996 with the song “The Voice” by Eimear Quinn.

The nation last reached the final six years ago, when they were represented by Ryan O’Shaughnessy, who placed 16th in Lisbon, Portugal.

Bambie Thug was chosen to represent Ireland after winning RTÉ’s Eurosong competition in January. Robinson wrote the track with Cassyette, Wargasm’s Sam Matlock and songwriter Tylr Rydr.

They were listed among the top 10 favorites to win the competition this year and were informed NME that they hope to “give the best performance possible and try to connect during those three minutes to those millions of viewers.”

Pressure was put on candidates, including Bambie Thug and British Representative Olly Alexander, to boycott the event in solidarity with Palestine. However, in a collective statement, the two reaffirmed their pro-Palestinian stance while announcing that they would not boycott.

Robinson issued an additional statement because he is “an Irishman with a shared history of occupation and a queer individual”, writing: “My heart and solidarity lie and always will be with the oppressed, and I remain committed to supporting and to use my platform. to raise awareness and advocate for change.”

They also spoke to NME about handling controversy, saying, “It’s a lot when I know my heart is in the right place and when it’s not my decision.” I’ve had to take a break from social media because it’s taking a toll on me. Many things are completely unpleasant and inappropriate.

“People should come for the EBU and for the presenters, not for us as artists,” they added. “I stand by my statement and I am all for Palestine, and I find it ridiculous that this has gone on for so long. I think the world is currently quite far from his heart and his conscience.

Irish Eurovision Song Contest 2024 entrant Bambie Thug performs at the Eurovision PreParty ES 2024 on March 30, 2024 in Madrid, Spain.
Irish Eurovision Song Contest 2024 entrant Bambie Thug performs at the Eurovision PreParty ES 2024 on March 30, 2024 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Patricia J. Garcinuno/Getty Images)

Numerous calls for a boycott of competition have been made in different countries. More than 1,000 Swedish artists have called for Israel to be banned this year, such as Robyn, Fever Ray and First Aid Kit, while more than 1,400 Finnish music industry professionals have signed a petition to also ban the country to participate in the competition.

Israel is still set to participate in the 2024 event, although it sparked controversy with its entrance song. Originally titled “October Rain,” the song – performed by Eden Golan – appeared to contain references to victims of the October 7 Hamas attacks and was banned from performance due to a violation of political neutrality rules.

Although Israel initially threatened to withdraw from the contest if changes were to be made, a call from Israeli President Isaac Herzog for “necessary adjustments” to ensure Israel’s participation prompted public broadcaster KAN to agree to modify the song . On March 9, Israel was confirmed to compete after changes were made to the lyrics and the song title was changed to “Hurricane”.

Most recently, Eurovision organizers confirmed they reserved the right to remove Palestinian flags and pro-Palestinian symbols during this year’s final, and again defended their decision not to boycott Israel at cause of the war in Gaza.

Jean Philip De Tender, Deputy Director General of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), said: “I completely agree that this is a family event and what is great about this competition musical is that it is above all a question of values. It’s about bringing all these young talents, these participants, together on stage, and they are doing very well. It’s about diversity and inclusion.

“But there are competition rules and you have to follow the competition rules and make decisions based on those competition rules. If you were to exclude Kan outside of these competition rules, that would have been a political decision as such that we cannot make.”