Belfast is the ‘rightful heir’ to the title of 2023 Eurovision Song Contest host city, Eamonn Holmes has claimed.
The GB News presenter said he believed his native city would provide a ‘marvellous setting’ for next year’s event and that the chances of it coming to our capital were ‘good’.
Belfast is one of 10 cities to state its intention to submit a bid, along with Leeds, Cardiff, London and Manchester, among others. Aberdeen, Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow and Liverpool have confirmed that work has already started on their bids.
This follows an announcement last week by the European Broadcasting Union and the BBC that the UK would host the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest on behalf of this year’s winners Ukraine.
Local councillors Anthony Flynn (Green Party) and Séamus De Faoite (SDLP) have written letters to Belfast City Council and Visit Belfast, suggesting the city be put forward as the host. Discussions are ongoing behind the scenes to gauge what is required to stage the 2023 event here.
It is understood high profile names from Northern Ireland have been approached to get behind the campaign.
Among the celebrities offering their support are Holmes and former Eurovision Song Contest winner Linda Martin.
In response to Mr Flynn’s call-out on Twitter for high profile backing for the bid, Holmes wrote: “On it Anthony. Things are quietly gathering momentum. #Belfast.”
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Holmes said: “It’s early days in the process but the will is there to make it happen.
“Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds are all great cities, but we are Belfast and we are different.
“For a start, we are a party city. Just look at Pride at the weekend.
“It’s an amazing dichotomy of who we are that despite conflict and some close mindedness, we are embracing, open and welcoming. That’s the new Northern Ireland.”
Holmes said that he felt that people here, as part of a post-conflict society, could understand and empathise with the people of Ukraine and what they were going through.
“I’m not saying what we went through is the same as what is happening in Ukraine now, but loss, pain, hurt, injustice, bullying, all feels the same no matter what scale it is on,” he added.
“We have an understanding of conflict and a sense of injustice and that history, that connection, is something no one else can offer.
“I think Belfast would be a marvellous setting for the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest.
“It’s the rightful heir to it really and I think its chances are good.”
Former Eurovision Song Contest winner Linda Martin is also supporting the growing campaign to bring the event here.
The Belfast-born singer, who won the competition in 1992 with the Johnny Logan-penned entry Why Me?, said Belfast would be a ‘fantastic’ choice to stage the massive and a ‘wonderful opportunity’ to showcase the city to millions of viewers in over 40 participating countries.
Linda said: “I really do believe Belfast would be a fantastic host city and I genuinely mean that.
“We have five-star hotels, two great airports, brilliant restaurants and the SSE Arena, which would be ideal to hold it in.
“With around 40 countries taking part, you’d have thousands upon thousands of people descending upon the city and with many of them staying here for a fortnight or so, they would be wanting to do things when not rehearsing.
“We have the Giant’s Causeway, the Game of Thrones locations, the Titanic Centre, so there would be plenty for the visitors to see and do.
“Belfast is perfectly placed to do this.”
Mr Flynn said the campaign was gathering momentum.
“We have the infrastructure, the SSE Arena and the space nearby for a media centre,” he said.
“But what we also have is the narrative.
“Next year is the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement and as a post-conflict society, we can show solidarity with the people of Ukraine.
“We can show them, and everyone around the world, that we can come through conflict, rebuild and emerge stronger and that’s a positive message to get across.
“I do think we stand a really good chance of bringing Eurovision home.”
The matter will be discussed at an upcoming meeting of the council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee, before proceeding to council for ratification. If it is given the green light at this stage, an expression of interest will be submitted to the European Broadcasting Union and BBC.
Belfast has twice previously been proposed as a potential host city for the Eurovision Song Contest. In 1994 the BBC suggested cooperation with Irish broadcaster RTÉ on hosting the 1995 contest in Belfast. While in 1998, Belfast was one of the cities visited by the BBC before Birmingham was selected to host.