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Miriam Lord’s Week: Dobbo the Newsical may wait in wings as RTÉ readies for next PAC curtain call

Toy Show musical discord, Roy Orbison rings out in Brussels, quiz winner Ned O’Sullivan, Sinn Féin hypocrisy and Trolley Cairns

Due to unforeseen circumstances, we must regretfully announce the immediate closure of our blockbuster theatrical debacle Dobbo the Newsical.

We took this difficult decision when someone with an ounce of common sense turned up unexpectedly at a planning meeting and introduced us to the concept of reality.

We are shaken to the core.

Because we know how much all the boys and girls, mammies and daddies were looking forward to immersing themselves in the enchanting world of Dobbo the Newsical which was shaping up to be a box office sensation until nobody bought any tickets.


This is a sad time for all of us.

We had hoped this production would become a much-loved annual festive classic on a par with The Nutcracker and Brendan O’Carroll’s How’s Your Snowballs.

“Daddy, why is the Six-One man with the red braces not on the news anymore?”

Why indeed. Those words, spoken by an anguished TD to a hushed Leinster House committee room during the ongoing Oireachtas investigations into Dobbo the Newsical, will haunt us forever.

Lookit, €2.3 million is a lot of money to lose in any organisation, even RTÉ.

But we did it creatively.

It was only €2.2 on Thursday but then it went up a hundred grand overnight because of a minor mix-up over sponsorship.

Perhaps it was unwise to spend so much promotional money on red braces and sailing shoes.

There will be learnings from this.

Our new director of learnings, Grant Thornton-Hall, has pledged the organisation’s full co-operation at all further hearings.

“RTÉ is more than happy to appear before any amount of committees if it means getting to the bottom of this unmitigated mess” said Mr Thornton-Hall, adding “You don’t have to be mad to work here, but it helps!”

We are hoping Grant will lead our delegations when hearings resume shortly on our other fiasco: Toy Show the Musical.

It’ll be great gas altogether…

Welcome back, RTÉ. We missed you.

The publication this week of the much-awaited auditors’ report into the musical which, like the Titanic, is forever ill-fated, was greeted with relief and elation in newsrooms thoughout the land.

And the Oireachtas committees which enjoyed so much exposure last year interrogating the expensive little ways of RTÉ and the people who might work in it are gearing up to do the same again now that the report is out.

Holding the national broadcaster to account is the job of the Oireachtas Media Committee, chaired by Fianna Fáil’s Niamh Symth. It efficiently grilled RTÉ’s top brass last year, along with the organisation’s soon-to-be-former-RTÉ-star Ryan Tubridy.

Had tickets been available they would have sold out in seconds.

Back then, the Public Accounts Committee, chaired by Sinn Féin’s Brian Stanley, decided to get in on the action. The PAC is considered the prestige committee as its members get to grill big-fish witnesses in its crusade to protect the public purse.

Brian was out like a shot this week, putting RTÉ (and the media committee) on notice that the PAC “may” decide to call-in RTÉ’s big wigs again for a second round of questioning.

When the PAC met on Thursday, it agreed to seek an extension of its remit so it could examine this week’s report and a second one, due very soon, into staff exit deals at RTÉ.

The committee needs special permission because RTÉ is not usually answerable to the PAC.

However, Deputy Stanley said the Toy Show dossier contains “some fairly stark revelations” and the committee would probably have to revisit the issue.

His selfless colleagues are in total agreement, even though this means they will have to put up with more darn publicity and an unprecedented amount of media exposure in this, an election year.

Will they gazzump the Media Committee and get their mitts on the Montrose mandarins first?

Deputy Smyth’s committee has decided not to summon the RTÉ witnesses until the second auditors’ report is published. It is expected within the next two weeks. No point in dragging them in twice.

Instead, the Media Committee has set Wednesday, February 14th, as the date for their public hearing into the two reports.

Valentine’s Day.

Unless the PAC massacres everyone first.

Meanwhile, the Dáil has set aside two days next week for a debate on Dobbo the Newsical with a further two on the cards for the week after if viewing figures hold up.

Seán Kelly IS Roy Orbison

We were pointed in the direction of MEP Seán Kelly’s Instagram account this week and his rather strange post from inside the European Parliament building.

The clip features Seán on his way to the chamber, walking slowly up a moving escalator until he has to stop briefly because someone is standing on the next step. Then he reaches the top and tootles on.

The MEP for Ireland South has a very serious expression on his bearded face. He is a wearing a dark-grey suit, no tie and is carrying some documents in his right hand.

It’s not a very exciting video. Seán, a garrulous Kerryman, doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t look at the camera. He just walks along with a loping gait, arms swinging out slowly, with the merest hint of swagger.

And, er, that’s it.

Seán has written two little explainers to go with this 20 seconds of nothing.

“Roy Orbison. Oh Pretty Woman” and “POV: Walking into Parliament.”

This is accompanied by a nail-varnished fingernail emoji. Apparently, this signifies “sassy!” Or “sassylicious!” Or something like that.

We watched it with the sound off the first time.


Turned the sound on.

Seán is striding out in time to the soundtrack.

“Pretty woman walkin’ down the street

Pretty woman the kind I like to meet

Pretty woman I don’t believe you, you’re not the truth

No one could look as good…”

And that’s it.

Totally baffled.

Smartest man in the room

Congratulations to Ned O’Sullivan, the Fianna Fáil Senator from Listowel in Kerry who was delighted to be informed this week that he has won The Big Irish Times Quiz of the Year 2023. (Details in Saturday’s magazine.)

One hundred questions from current affairs to pop culture to sports and political earthquakes, according to the blurb.

Ned got them all right and his name was drawn from the hat or tombola or however they do these things in Tara Street these days.

“I put myself down as Edward O’Sullivan – that’s my official name,” he told us on Friday. “It was a very pleasant surprise when I got a phone call saying that I won. I get a trip to a lovely old country house above in Armagh called Newforge House. Thrilled.”

Ned said he doesn’t normally enter competitions or do quizzes.

“I must have been very idle at some stage over the Christmas. I remember doing the first few questions for a laugh and then it intrigued me a bit and I kept going.”

He must have been busy on Google as he worked his way though the questions? “Not a hope, oh Jesus, no. I wasn’t that interested in winning.”

He joked he can now take over the mantle of brainiest politician in the Seanad, now that David Norris has retired. But he won’t hold that title for too long either.

“I’m looking forward to the next election so I can retire out of it. I’m 37 years in there and was on the council for 22 years before that.”

Sinn Féin hypocrisy over Gaza stance and White House trip

Some very good speeches in the Dáil on Wednesday during the debate on the Social Democrats’ motion calling on the Government to support South Africa’s genocide case against Israel in the International Court of Justice.

But Labour’s Aodhán Ó Ríordáin’s passionate contribution stood out as he lambasted the EU, America and the UK for their response to Israel’s genocide mission in Gaza.

He castigated British Labour leader Keir Starmer’s stance on the continuing slaughter.

“His words have been a disgrace. His inaction has been a disgrace. He is disgracing his own party and the labour movement. If that is the voice and inaction of Keir Starmer, many of us in the Labour Party in Ireland will think twice about campaigning for the British Labour Party in the upcoming general election there. I do not say that with any joy or any level of comfort but, in this regard, you have to call out what you see to be wrong.”

Along with other opposition speakers, he condemned America for bankrolling the bloodshed.

“We cannot go to the White House in six weeks’ time and gleefully hand over a bowl of shamrock to an administration that is backing this, cheerleading it, funding it and weaponising it. We can’t do that,” he said, with an eye to the Sinn Féin benches.

“I would also say to those political organisations in this chamber who want to go there to raise money in six weeks’ time that you can’t do that either. You can’t take money off these people. There comes a point when you have to say No. There comes a point when we have to say to our friends and colleagues and those with whom we have deep political relationships that they are wrong, because some things are more important.”

Sinn Féin has a busy US programme planned for March. The usual trip to Washington will be the highlight.

The party came under sustained pressure this week to withdraw from its annual fundraising/White House photo op jamboree.

No chance.

Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill took to the little known official X/Twitter account of the “Sinn Féin International Department” to confirm they would be off to rub shoulders on Capitol Hill.

“Sinn Féin will use St Patrick’s Day trip to push for peace.”

But too flush to push Palestine with its wealthy American benefactors?

Its various social media accounts are awash with Palestinian flags, condemnation of Israel and pledges of solidarity with the stricken people of Gaza and the West Bank. Except for the Friends of Sinn Féin USA (FOSFUSA) account which doesn’t seem to realise there’s a war on.

As socialist social media raged against gross hypocrisy on Sinn Féin’s part, Dublin TD Paul Donnelly tried to explain the situation to one disappointed correspondent.

“The Palestinian leadership are asking us to represent them. They recognise the important access Ireland and in particular Sinn Féin has in America.”

It’ll be a first when they arrive at the parades with Palestinian flags. Mary Lou might even address a big rally in New York, the way she did in London.

It seems the boycott is dead.

Talking is the way forward now.

They’ll be taking their seats in Westminster next.

Holly figures of speech

Slip of the tongue of the week.

On Wednesday, in the short lull between the motion on Gaza and Leaders’ Questions, Mary Lou McDonald arrived in the Dáil chamber and made an immediate beeline for Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns.

The two were deep in animated conversation for some time, nodding and gesticulating as they had a good old chinwag.

Labour leader Ivana Bacik arrived just after they started talking. She sat down in her usual spot, a few seats down from Holly and buried her head in her mobile phone. But she soon noticed the other two, lifting her head ever so often to steal a glance.

Leaders’ Questions started and Ivana had the second slot.

She addressed the worsening conditions in many hospitals around the country.

“Taoiseach, will you end the miserly recruitment freeze?” she asked Leo Varadkar.

“Will you address the Holly… er… Trolley crisis.”

Trolley! She meant trolley! Not Holly!

Brendan Howlin, in the seat behind, almost managed not to laugh.