Ireland has made it to the final of the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time in five years – as fans applauded a moving same-sex dance routine.
The country squeaked through at last night’s first Eurovision semi-final in Lisbon, holding off competition from Azerbaijan and Greece to secure a place in Saturday’s Grand Final.
Irish entrant Ryan O’Shaughnessy took to the stage to perform the track “Together,” a moving ballad about a failed relationship.
However, O’Shaughnessy spent much of the performance in the background, as dancers Kevin O’Dwyer and Alan McGrath re-enacted a same-sex love story on centre stage.
The pair’s romantic interpretive dance was well-received by fans – and apparently voting audiences loved it too, as it secured Ireland a place in the final.
On Twitter fans praised the entry, noting Ireland’s progress in just a few short years since passing equal marriage.
O’Shaughnessy said: “My only intention was to help people see that love is just love, and there’s no difference – whether it’s between a man and a woman, a woman and a woman or a man and a man.
“It’s so important, because not everyone is as liberal as the people in this [Eurovision press conference] room are, and the people I’ve gotten to meet over the past week.
“It’s an important thing, and I’m very proud of my country for making that change a few weeks back. I know a lot of Irish people went home to vote for the referendum on same-sex marriage, and we’re bringing a new energy back to that topic.”
Speaking to the Irish Independent, O’Shaughnessy added: “We have been the underdogs since we came here and no one thinks Ireland has what it had.
“But we made the Eurovision what it was and we are going to make it what it is in the future. We are going to win it on Saturday.
“Dublin for 2019! Unfortunately for RTE… I hope they can afford it. I am feeling so happy and I am feeling so proud of my team.”
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Russia had threatened to block the broadcast of the performance over the LGBT routine.
However Channel One Russia did air the Irish entry unedited when it aired the semi-final. It is unclear if it will do the same on Saturday.
Elsewhere, Finland’s out singer Saara Aalto qualified with her track “Monsters”.
Aalto has hailed the moment as a “dream come true”, having tried and failed to reach the contest on a number of occasions.
The Finnish singer told PinkNews the song is about “living life as you want, finding your strength, being brave as who you are and not being afraid to show it.”
Of being out at the contest, she said: “I am very proud to be lesbian and I feel very much like I am lesbian, totally.”