The Republic of Ireland has won the Eurovision Song Contest more times than any other nation, most recently in 1996. But will it win this year's contest - with a turkey performing for it, literally.

This year's contest is held in Belgrade.

Ireland selects a turkey to ruffle feathers at the Eurovision song contest - and becomes 10-1 favourite

24th February 2008
Daily Mail

A puppet will represent Ireland in this year's Eurovision song contest after Irish TV viewers voted it their favourite.

Children's favourite Dustin The Turkey was selected as the best of six finalists by Irish voters.

Bookmaker William Hill is already offering odds of 10-1 favourite to win Eurovision.

Winning act: Dustin was one of six acts competing in Eurosong 2008 final in Limerick for the right to represent Rep of Ireland at Eurovision

The bookies' Irish spokesman Tony Kenny said: "These days you have to be either from the old eastern bloc or have a great gimmick to win Eurovison - and a singing turkey will possibly one of the most bizarre things that a Eurovision audience will ever see.

"He'll go to Belgrade on a wing and a prayer and, fingers crossed, he'll ruffle a few feathers when he gets there."

William Hill initially offered odds of 5-4 for the superstar turkey to be selected to represent Ireland in the contest, but following a massive gamble they were forced to slash those odds to 1-5.

Mr Kenny said: "We've been well and stuffed by Dustin. We thought that it was a wind-up when we first heard that he was entering the competition."

Viewers voted for the the cult figure's performance of Irelande Douze Pointe - a parody of Eurovision - to be the one to ruffle some feathers at the song contest in May.

Dustin, one of Ireland's leading stars since he joined The Den with fellow puppets Zig and Zag in the 1990, swept all before him when he performed live.

No hard feelings: Dustin the Turkey is congratulated by Leona Daly who lost out to the bird

The bird is no stranger to being in the limelight having recorded six albums and performed a host of comical duets with artists such as Bob Geldof, Chris De Burgh, Ronnie Drew, Dervla Kirwan and the late Joe Dolan.

After a number of years in the wilderness, Dustin The Turkey said he has decided to return to the recording studio in an effort to restore his nation's position as the High Kings Of Eurovision.

Darren Smith and Simon Fine - composed the track with Dustin - previously collaborated on Crazy Turkey from Dustin's bestselling album Bling When Your Minging.

Ireland's glory in the European wide song contest has taken a battering in recent years.

Despite winning the Eurovision a record seven times - in 1970, 1980, 1987, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996 - it was third last in 2004, failed to qualify in 2005, and although Brian Kennedy was placed in the top 10 in 2006, and the trad group Dervish came last last year.

This year, television RTE changed the rules and almost 200 entries from songwriters in and outside of Ireland were received by judging panel, chaired by television producer Bill Hughes.

The final six songs were chosen by the team which featured acclaimed singer/songwriter Eleanor McEvoy, former Eurovision winning singer/songwriter Charlie McGettigan, showbiz agent/choreographer Julian Benson and RTE's Julian Vignoles.

Eurosong 2008 was presented live on RTE from University Concert Hall Limerick, with viewers voting by phone and text for the winning song that will be performed in the first semi-final on Tuesday, May 20.

The final will be staged on Saturday, May 24.