Eamonn Holmes has said Belfast is the “rightful heir” to host the Eurovision Song Contest 2023.
The GB News presenter said he believed his home town would be a “wonderful setting” for next year’s event and that the chances of it coming to our capital were “good”.
Belfast is one of 10 cities that have announced their intention to apply, 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.
It follows last week’s announcement by the European Broadcasting Union and the BBC that the UK will host the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest on behalf of this year’s winners Ukraine.
Local councilors Anthony Flynn (Green Party) and Séamus de Faoite (SDLP) have written to Belfast City Council and are visiting Belfast to bid for the city to host. Discussions continue behind the scenes to assess what is required to host the 2023 event here.
It is understood that the company has been approached by well-known names from Northern Ireland.
Among the celebrities offering their support are Holmes and former Eurovision Song Contest winner Linda Martin.
Responding to Mr Flynn’s call on Twitter for vocal support for the bid, Holmes wrote: “This is Anthony. Things are quietly picking up speed. #Belfast.”
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Holmes said: “The process is still at an early stage, but the will is there to make it happen.
“Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds are great cities, but we are Belfast and we are different.
“To begin with, we are a party city. Just look at Pride over the weekend.
“It’s a strange dichotomy of who we are that, despite our conflicts and some intimacy, we are accepting, open and welcoming. This is the new Northern Ireland.”
Holmes said he feels that people here, as part of a post-conflict society, can understand and empathize with the people of Ukraine and what they are going through.
“I’m not saying that what we went through is similar to what is happening in Ukraine now, but the loss, the pain, the hurt, the injustice, the abuse – everything feels the same, regardless of the scale,” 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 wonderful location for the Eurovision Song Contest 2023.
“This is really the rightful heir and I think he has a good chance.”
Former Eurovision Song Contest winner Linda Martin is also backing the campaign to host the event here.
The Belfast-born singer, who won the contest in 1992 with the Johnny Logan-penned ‘Why Me?’, said Belfast would be a “fantastic” choice to host the massive event and a “wonderful opportunity” to showcase the city to millions of viewers. in more than 40 participating countries.
Linda said: “I really believe Belfast would be faa great host city, and I mean it sincerely.
“We have five-star hotels, two great airports, brilliant restaurants and the SSE Arena, which would be ideal to host.
“With around 40 countries taking part, thousands and thousands of people flock to the city and many of them are staying here for a fortnight or so, they’ll want something to do when they’re not rehearsing.
“We have Giant’s Causeway, Game of Thrones locations, Titanic Center, so visitors will have plenty to see and do.
“Belfast is perfect for that.”
Mr Flynn said the company was gaining momentum.
“We have the infrastructure, the SSE Arena and media center space close by,” he said.
“But what we also have is storytelling.
“Next year will be 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 overcome conflict, recover and become stronger, and that’s a positive message to convey.
“I think we have a really good chance to bring Eurovision home.”
The issue will be discussed at an upcoming meeting of the council’s urban development and regeneration committee before going to the 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 the BBC.
Belfast has twice been proposed as a potential host city for the Eurovision Song Contest. In 1994, the BBC offered to partner with Irish broadcaster RTÉ to host the 1995 competition in Belfast. In 1998, Belfast was one of the cities visited by the BBC before Birmingham was chosen as the host.