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outspoken ‘Male violence on females starts in the playground and that’s where it should be stopped’ - Colm Meaney

Meaney takes aim at culture of misogyny and cruel comedy

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Colm Meaney filming the RTÉ series ‘Back to Barrytown’.

Colm Meaney filming the RTÉ series ‘Back to Barrytown’.

Colm Meaney, with the cast of The Snapper. Photo: Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock

Colm Meaney, with the cast of The Snapper. Photo: Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock

Meaney with Tina Kellegher in The Snapper. Photo: Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock and Television

Meaney with Tina Kellegher in The Snapper. Photo: Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock and Television

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Colm Meaney filming the RTÉ series ‘Back to Barrytown’.

With its acerbic wit and edgy depiction of down-at-heel Dublin, The Commitments is considered a snapshot of the 1980s.

But despite the critics who say political correctness is killing comedy, actor Colm Meaney, who starred as Jimmy Rabbitte Sr in the movie, sees no reason why the film could not be made today.

“Yes, I think it could still be produced today – I don’t see what’s offensive in The Commitments,” he says.

“But it’s time we stopped – I don’t get this backlash against political correctness. What’s wrong with being decent to people?”

He insists that there is no need for comedy to be offensive and that society is waking up to the awful hurt caused by misogyny and racism.

“I’m raising two daughters (Brenda, 38 and Ada, 17) and I saw this through their school years,” he says.

“Male violence on females starts in the playground and that’s where it should be stopped. Guys don’t just suddenly learn this when they go to college or work. It’s there from the beginning.”

Reverting back to the screen comedy debate, the father-of-two continues: “I think people’s sensibility changes over the years.

“John Cleese has become a bit of a reactionary gentleman in his old age.

“I’m a huge fan of John and I love his work, but he has developed reactionary tendencies.

“I don’t have any problem with that. We’ve developed a sensitivity and an understanding to what language means, especially to minority people.

“There was a time when it was OK to call us Micks and Paddys and all that kind of stuff. It never particularly bothered me, but it wasn’t very nice, was it?

“So equally, there is much more offensive racial names, so we don’t need them to be funny.”

With an acting career spanning four decades, a Golden Globe nomination and success on both sides of the Atlantic, it’s fair to say Meaney is one of Ireland’s greatest exports.

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Sci-fi devotees will remember him from his Enterprise duties on Star Trek as Chief Miles O’Brien, while others will immediately think of him in The Commitments.

But the acting veteran confesses that he ruled out a role in The Lord of the Rings straight away.

“My agent was asking me about it at the time. There were enquires and I don’t know what they were offering me, but I didn’t want to go to New Zealand for three years. I hate all that fantasy stuff anyway and I probably would have been miserable.”

Pressed on how he’s managed to stay so fit and energetic as he nears his 69th birthday, Meaney says: “I don’t know – drinking and smoking.

“Both my wife and I eat mostly organic foods, and I think that’s helped a bit.

“I’m lucky with my mother’s genes. She died in 2018 and she was 96. Who knows? I don’t have a secret. It’s probably the Finglas in me.”

He says Covid finally crept up on him after two years of avoiding it.

Despite receiving his booster jab in Dublin just before Christmas, he still fell victim to the Omicron variant.

“We went two years without getting it and then suddenly Ines and I felt a bit sniffly, and we soon realised we’d caught it, but I’ve had worse head colds. I guess when it’s your turn, it’s your turn.

“We had a quiet Christmas and New Year’s here in Majorca where we live, and we haven’t been out much since then – and if we have, it’s just been to the grocery store.

“So I’ve no idea where we picked it up, but I guess this Omicron gets around.”

The Dubliner divides his time between his homes on the Spanish island and Los Angeles.

He currently stars as Father Peter in Confession, which is out now on digital platforms.

“I’m usually in Ireland around three or four times a year, but I can sometimes go six to nine months without visiting, so I didn’t really miss it during lockdown.

“I was home before the festive period as I was doing a film called Marlowe. We shot the exteriors in Barcelona and the interiors in Dublin. It’s based on the novel The Black-Eyed Blonde by John Banville. Neil Jordan and Liam Neeson directed it.”

Reflecting on his friendship with Taken legend Neeson, Meaney adds: “I’ve known Liam for 40-odd years.

“We were in The Abbey Theatre together many moons ago, when we were both boys.”

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