Young Offenders and crime drama Dublin Murders headline RTÉ’s new season

Focus on climate change and Sean Quinn in offering from ‘flat broke’ broadcaster

Dublin Murders, an eight-part adaptation of Tana French's bestselling crime novels, and a second series of Cork-set comedy The Young Offenders headline the new season of programming on RTÉ.

The broadcaster also highlighted a special November week of programmes on the climate change crisis, which will include the Gerald Fleming-fronted Will Ireland Survive 2050? and a special Youth Assembly debate in the Dáil.

Quinn Country, a three-part series boasting "unprecedented access" to controversial businessman Sean Quinn, heads a list of new factual commissions that also includes The Redress Board, which will see RTÉ return to the subject of Ireland's industrial schools, and The Teenage Ambassadors, which follows two young women who met while living in direct provision.

Dublin Murders stars Sarah Greene and Killian Scott, Late Late Show presenter Ryan Tubridy and Morning Ireland's Bryan Dobson were among the attendees as RTÉ director-general Dee Forbes launched its new season of television and radio from RTÉ's Montrose campus in Dublin.


The broadcaster also looked ahead to its coverage of Ireland's games and the knockout stages of the Rugby World Cup, for which pundits Jamie Heaslip, Donncha O'Callaghan and Michael Lynagh will join its panel, with Six Nations-winning captain Fiona Coughlan a new addition to the commentary team.

But there were references throughout to RTÉ’s financial strains, which have seen it record a deficit in seven of the last 10 years. “RTÉ is flat broke,” co-host Eoghan McDermott reminded the audience at the top of the event.

"Mind magician" Keith Barry, who will be back with four-parter The Keith Barry Experience, said he had no rehearsal for a straitjacket stunt because "they forgot to book the crane", to which McDermott replied: "They didn't forget, man. There's no money."

Live TV

After Tubridy spoke of the importance of the "distinctly Irish" Late Late Show's "town hall" vibe, it was onto Ray D'Arcy, who noted that his chat-show had been off air since March (Saturday nights on RTÉ One now seem to be shared with The Tommy Tiernan Show).

“This sounds a bit sad, but I really miss live television,” D’Arcy said. “Netflix can’t do live television. They’re not interested in it.”

Alongside more episodes of ratings phenomenon Room to Improve and the popular First Dates, there will be another run out for reality series Ireland’s Fittest Family and celebrity competition Dancing with the Stars. “It’s naked Dancing with the Stars, because we can’t afford costumes,” joked its co-presenter Jennifer Zamparelli.

Signs of the financial squeeze were also evident in the nature of its drama and comedy line-up.

A year ago, RTÉ was promoting Taken Down, its own drama commission, but this year its flagship autumn drama – Dublin Murders – is a BBC project first announced in 2017, with RTÉ coming later on board as a co-production partner.

Cork-set comedy series The Young Offenders is also backed by the BBC, while a third scripted series in the pipeline, the Irish-Canadian period mystery Dead Still, won’t air until 2020. All three series were previously announced.

The one newly-flagged scripted series was The South Westerlies, a comedy drama about an offshore wind farm. The six-parter also has Screen Ireland funding, while four comedy pilots originating from a joint Screen Ireland / RTÉ scheme will also air in the months ahead.

New Screen Ireland chief executive Désirée Finnegan was given a special mention by Ms Forbes as she welcomed RTÉ’s partners, including the GAA, Science Foundation Ireland and the independent production sector. “As you know, we can’t do things on our own,” the director-general said.

Chefs and cruise ships

Elsewhere, Baz Ashmawy will present the "feel-good" format DIY SOS Ireland – The Big Build, and chef Mark Moriarty will "go behind the kitchen doors" of restaurants in Beyond the Menu.

RTÉ's Sunday night stalwart Francis Brennan will find his sea legs on All Hand on Deck, filmed on board a Princess Cruises ship, while Cat Hospital will follow Claire Meade and her team of specialists at Ireland's first cat-only veterinary practice.

There will be a four-part series of troubled teen show Raised by the Village on RTÉ2, while Pulling with my Parents will explore the wisdom of letting parents from the pre-Tinder age “crack the cupid conundrum for their kids”.

On the heartfelt side, The Rotunda in Dublin has also reopened its doors to the cameras for the series that is marketed internationally as 24 Hour Baby Hospital, while experts have been recruited to solve problems for people in need in The Big Life Fix.

Arts programming includes We Need to Talk About Ross, a documentary about Ross O'Carroll-Kelly creator Paul Howard. John Kelly is back for five episodes of The Works Presents, and there will be a tribute programme to entertainer Brendan Grace.

After RTÉ director of audience, channels and marketing Adrian Lynch delivered his pitch for the season ahead, it was left to co-host Doireann Garrihy to wonder if there were “any other corporate-y bits?”

The event closed, as it opened, with the aid of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, a reminder of RTÉ’s public service status.

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics