'no badness' | 

‘I meant no harm with my skit about prison officer’ – ‘Rory’s Stories’ star

‘I always try and just have a bit of craic, but sometimes people can take it the wrong way’

Rory O'Connor

Eugene Masterson

Comedian Rory O’Connor confirms publicly today for the first time he apologised to the Prison Officers Association (POA) over a sketch he made in which he depicted a prison officer being either incompetent or perhaps drunk..

The 36-year-old, who shot to fame with his online comic shorts ‘Rory’s Stories’, had at the time been in the middle of filming a TV documentary series with Dublin GAA legend Philly McMahon about teaching 10 Mountjoy inmates to play a gaelic football game in Croke Park.

But the planned game against a team of prison officers and the documentary itself was thrown into jeopardy when an outraged POA instructed its members to have nothing more to do with the programme because of the perceived insult.

In the skit Rory was dressed as a prison officer in a real uniform and was filmed walking along a landing while whistling and swinging a set of keys.

He opened a cell with a prisoner in it, which was prearranged, and they were seen laughing and joking together. He sings a Christmas song and dances along to a disco ball and then leaves and when the dinner guard asks for the keys back he says he doesn’t know where they are, having left them in the cell with the prisoner

Another part showed Rory’s character being filmed in the class office pretending to be doing something for a lag on the PC, banging the keyboard.

Rory stresses to the Sunday World he “never meant any insult” insisting “I was on a national tour at the time during the documentary.

“I was gigging around the country at weekends, and I suggested we do a show for the prisoners and their families at Christmas.

"As part of the show we did a workshop where we did Rory’s Stories sketches with these guys based on prison life, and you will see in the documentary it was great to get these lads out of their comfort zones and to show their families there is a lot of talent.

“We made five sketches that we were due to show at the concert, but unfortunately the prison officers took offence to one. It got out there they didn’t want to play the game anymore. It wasn’t ideal, but we just had to move on.

“There was definitely no badness intended on my behalf, but unfortunately that’s what happens, so we have to move on and people will have to tune in to see how it all unfolds.”

But while he apologised to the POA and its members he declines to confirm if the game between prisoners and officers actually went ahead, but the Sunday World has learned from other sources that while the game at Croke Park did do ahead with the prisoners, the prison officers refused to play and an external team was brought in instead.

A POA spokesperson confirmed to us their officers did not take part, but stressed workshops reopening in the prison at the time were their priority “and not the holding of events for a small number of prisoners for public relation purposes” which would have required “significant staff resources to ensure safety and security”.

“There was never any intentional insult to anyone from my behalf, there never is with Rory’s Stories sketches. I always try and just have a bit of craic with them, but sometimes people can take it the wrong way, and unfortunately it has happened to me before long before I did this documentary,” he stresses.

Rory, who is a father-of-three hailing from Ashbourne Co Meath, knew Philly from playing under age gaelic football and also from doing a sports management course together in college.

The comic had taken part in a celebrity version of RTÉ ’s Ultimate Hell endurance course programme and when a producer asked him would he be up for making a documentary about putting prisoners through their paces in playing a gaelic football game he rang up Philly and asked him to come on board.

“People might get a bit of an eyeopener when they are probably expecting just me and Philly showing them how to handpass a ball out in the yard, but that’s only part of it,” he explains.

“But we go in-depth and show every side, both the positives and negatives of being in prison and its all towards helping guys not come back to Mountjoy, and also for young people who might be heading down that road, for them to look at this documentary going ‘f**k I don’t want to end up here like these guys’.”

He reveals the prisoners they dealt with were mainly in jail for drug and theft offences.

“They are all in the progression unit, which is the kind of half way house between society and the main jail, so these guys are obviously doing well in the main jail, or else they are getting ready to get back into society, so that’s where the progression unit worked out well for us.

“We had guys who wanted to make a chance, who wanted to do better,” he points out.

He admits they did base their programme on some popular films.

“We did model it off the famous Vinnie Jones film Mean Machine,” he notes.

“I know Adam Sandler done one with American football, The Longest Yard. That was the concept, go in train prisoners, gaelic football and they take on the prison officers in a match. That was the base.

“But it was never really about the big match, it was always about me and Philly using our experiences and what we have learned on our own journeys to help these guys throughout the 12 week programme. The football was the dangle for the lads to play a match in Croke Park.”

He discloses there was some trouble in the prison captured by their crew, but they were also shown CCTV footage of previous incidents in the jail to give them a feel of how hairy it can become.

“When you are walking thought the main jail the prisoners are on lock, you don’t know who’s beside you, you don’t know how in depth or serious their crime was,” he reflects.

“To be honest with you they treated me and Philly well, there was a bit of banter. You might have had a Dub slagging me, or you might have had a Mayo fan calling Philly this that or the other, but it was all friendly.

“There was no aggressiveness towards me and Philly from any prisoner, they all treated us well and a bit of slagging, a bit of craic, they were all fine. There was no incidence where I felt ‘oh sh*t Im under pressure’, it was all in order thank God.

“The moral of the story is we wanted to show these ten guys there’s a different side of life, and for people watching not to walk down their road, so that is the aim of what we hope people will take away from the whole documentary.”

  • Gaelic in the Joy airs Wednesday 17th May, 9:35pm on RTÉ One and RTÉ Player

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