Stroke-Ism and Greed: Why Colm Meaney Is Convinced We've Sold Our Souls

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), August 26, 2012 | Go to article overview

Stroke-Ism and Greed: Why Colm Meaney Is Convinced We've Sold Our Souls


Byline: by Patricia Danaher

COLM MEANEY is disillusioned. Perhaps it's due to his playing the part of a ruthless railroad baron - a man happy to crush anyone to get what he wants - in Western TV drama Hell On Wheels, but social injustice is playing on the Dublin actor's mind right now. And Meaney admits that he's still smarting from the backlash he felt for endorsing Martin McGuinness's presidential bid.

When the Sinn Fein candidate announced his intention to run, Meaney was one of a number of stars, including Anjelica Huston, Fionnula Flanagan and Roma Downey, who lent him their enthusiastic support.

In the run-up to the election in October last year, Meaney gave a rousing address to some 500 of McGuinness's supporters at a Mansion House rally, taking the opportunity to rebuff media criticism of the Sinn Fein candidate and hailing him as the 'most experienced politician and statesman' in the race.

Despite McGuinness's failure to win - and, indeed, his seeming determination to derail frontrunner Sean Gallagher in the days before the ballot - Meaney stands by his contribution. As far as he's concerned, it was a logical continuation of the politics he had adhered to himself all his life. He joined Sinn Fein before the party split into Official and Provisional Sinn Fein in 1970, and when he later became an actor spent time with radical British theatre companies such as 7:84 and Belt And Braces.

'A lot of the Dublin 4 crowd gave me flak for endorsing Martin McGuinness and I find it all really astonishing,' he says. 'I've never known a country that abolished its own independence day - the Easter Parade - which I loved as a kid, but it was abolished for years and only brought back recently. We banned our own songs from the Seventies onwards. The self-loathing that went on - it boggles the mind!

'Anyway, the last 30, almost 40 years in Ireland have been extraordinary. I just don't know how two centuries of Republican struggle can just be dismissed like that. There were reasons for it. The Famine did happen. We didn't cause it and, to listen to those guys, you'd think the British never did anything wrong in Ireland.

'That's not to say I was always in support of the Provisionals. When I was in Ireland, I was much more a supporter of Official Sinn Fein, more of the extreme wing of the Workers' Party.

'I remember meeting Gerry Adams in Fionnula Flanagan's house here in LA in the Nineties and I was really glad they had finally taken the position of a ceasefire and negotiation with the British government. It was epic. It took them a long time to come around, but they did and now I think we have to give Sinn Fein an opportunity. They're the only 32-county party, which I think is fantastic.

'Also Fine Gael and Labour have again failed us miserably and we need an Opposition. I think they deserve a chance.

'They have some wonderfully progressive, smart people in their ranks, which is more than can be said for Fine Gael.' Meaney attributes his passion for politics to his father, who was a van driver for Johnston Mooney & O'Brien. 'He instilled a real sense of social justice in me. He was very ethical and conscientious.

He read the newspapers every day and talked to us about issues, and that really stuck with me.

'He drove a horse and cart delivering the bread until 1959 and then they were given electric vans. He'd go all around Dublin, then bring the van back and plug it in. Now every delivery in Dublin is done with diesel. How back-ward can you get? Imagine how much gas we could save if every van delivering in Dublin was electric instead of diesel?' It's not just Irish issues that concern the actor. The 59-year-old is in Los Angeles for a few weeks to do publicity for the second series of Hell On Wheels, which will air on RTE this autumn. Although he lived in the city for almost two decades, and still has a home there, he now spends most of his time living in Spain with his second wife, Ines Glorain, and their seven-year-old daughter Ada (he was previously married actress Bairbre Dowling, with whom he has a 23-year-old daughter, Brenda, for 17 years). …

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