The endorsement of a children’s charity by the homegrown heroes of The Young Offenders is entirely in keeping with their character: hard chaws with soft cores.
And so it was that the cast and crew of the hit TV comedy turned out in style for a red-carpet screening of the series’ season finale in the English Market, as a fundraiser for Straight Ahead.
The charity funds surgery for children with severe orthopaedic deformities, for whom waiting is not an option.
It was set up seven years ago by Cork native, paediatric orthopaedic surgeon Pat Kiely, in an effort to reduce unacceptable waiting times for children with scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, and has performed more than 125 operations to date.
The work of the charity, with surgeons operating pro bono at weekends, as well as the provision of an extra theatre at Crumlin Children’s Hospital, the hiring of another orthopaedic surgeon at Crumlin and the formulation by the HSE of a scoliosis action plan, have all helped reduce the waiting list.
Latest figures from the Children’s Hospital Group show 167 children awaiting scoliosis-related surgery as of February 23, including 43 waiting in excess of the HSE target of four months.
The figure of 43 does not include patients who are suspended for outsourcing, and procedures that will not require theatre capacity. Also excluded are patients who have a planned procedure with indicative date beyond February 23.
Mr Kiely, who works in Crumlin and who was among the 800 plus fans to attend The Young
Offenders special screening on Saturday night, said there have been significant improvements in the hospital’s waiting lists.
“It’s about half of what it was compared to this time last year. In 2016, our target was 58-60 major surgeries,” he said. “Last year it went up to between 85-90 and this year the target is 120-125.
“In effect, over a three-year period, we are doubling the number of surgeries. It’s a huge step forward in terms of national capacity.”
The situation would improve further if the theatre in Crumlin was operational five days a week, instead of the current three.
“I think we are halfway to where we ultimately need to get to,” said Mr Kiely.
“We would expect for the size of our population to do 200 cases a year. When I started in 2007, it was about 30 major cases a year. I was often putting two to three children on a list per week and God knows what happened to those kids and if they were ever treated.”
The weekend fundraiser for Straight Ahead was sold out in minutes. Among those to attend were Alex Murphy (who plays Conor MacSweeney), Hilary Rose (Conor’s mum Mairead), and director Peter Foote.
Murphy said it was “hard to wrap your head” around how successful the show has become.
Fans watched the season finale on two large screens in the English Market, which opened for the occasion, with traders providing refreshments.
Ireland’s oldest indoor market features prominently in the series, as Mairead works at Kay O’Connell’s fish stall.
At the screening, Rose said: “It ends on a cliffhanger, but I can’t tell you what it is.”
The final episode of The Young Offenders will air on RTÉ2 on Thursday at 9.30pm and on BBC One on Friday, after The Graham Norton Show. A second series has already been commissioned.
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