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Photo: Andres Putting (EBU)

Ireland's Zena: "I made some amazing lifelong friends, I know that!"

Zena Donnelly will represent Ireland in the 2016 Junior Eurovision Song Contest with the song Bríce Ar Bhríce (Brick by Brick). Zena wrote the song herself and will open the show on Sunday evening after being drawn first to perform during the opening ceremony which took place earlier this week.

Today the assembled press had a first glimpse of Zena’s costume that she will wear on the night. Claire Garvey designed the dress with the concept developed by Zena. An important element of it is that Zena loves Doc Martin boots, and this compliments her style. Although she’s a princess, she’s a princess warrior with attitude.

Ireland’s Head of Delegation, Mary Kingston, said “When Zena won for Ireland and we came on this journey to Malta we felt that we had won already and now we have embraced this opportunity and we have enjoyed the journey”.

Zena has immersed herself in the world of Junior Eurovision since she arrived last week. "I’m super excited and really really happy with the results of the second rehearsal. The things that we wanted to change have changed, there’s going be a new stage surprise that looks really cool, but that I cannot say yet because it would ruin it!"

"I’m aware that Irish is not the biggest language in the world and that’s why we decided to add the last chorus in English to make it more understandable for everyone so that they can enjoy it too. I actually wrote the song in English in the first place!"

When asked about the other participants, Zena's face beams. "The other kids are the most gorgeous people I’ve ever met, they are so so beautiful and lovely I absolutely love them. I made some amazing lifelong friends, I know that!"

Zena will open the show on Sunday. "I’m actually glad to be performing as number one as coming out first I won’t have to suffer the nerves long, plus I like number one, that was always my number in the national selection and, number one, you know: going for gold!"

Embrace Life

Host Broadcaster PBS Malta has given each country a specific slogan which follows the theme for Junior Eurovision this year, Embrace. For Ireland it’s Embrace Life and for Zena and her family this message has particular significance and poignancy. Declan, Zena’s father was kind enough to share his family’s story with us.

"15 years ago our family unit was turned on its head one night when our second son Max became very sick and was rushed to hospital. He was diagnosed with meningitis B and septicemia aged just ten months.

"Max battled so bravely for four days but we had to finally to let him go and he passed peacefully from this life into the next in the arms of his loving mum and dad. A piece of equipment could have helped save Max but the hospital had no funding for it so we made a promise to Max and to the hospital that we would raise the money to buy the equipment.

"We channeled all of our pain and grief into doing good for others and so we set up a charity called Baby Max Wings of Love Fund. We know that we could not have made any difference to Max but knew we could make a difference for others which gives us great solace.

"Two years after Max died, Zena came into this world, singing. We have no doubt that Max sent her to us on his “wings of love” and that his legacy will last our lifetime. Embrace life!"