With her tabard and love of good drying weather, the Irish Mammy is a towering institution in pop culture. The Irish Daddy is no slouch either; the ostensible head of the house, it often falls on Dad to dispense good advice, open the wallet and remind his offspring to listen to their mother (results may vary).
For the weekend that’s in it, with Father’s Day this Sunday, we’ve taken a trawl through the annals of Irish film and TV to find the good, the bad and the downright cranky Irish dads.
1 Malachy McCourt, ‘Angela’s Ashes’ (played by Robert Carlyle)
The alcoholic father is a common trope across Irish literature and memoir, and in the adaptation of Frank McCourt’s Pulitzer-winning book, Scottish actor Robert Carlyle made the head of the McCourt household a pitiable and heartbreaking figure. Devastated by the death of his infant children, and facing prejudice as a Northern Irish Protestant in Limerick, Malachy turns to the bottle, causing lasting scars on his poverty-stricken family.
2 Giuseppe Conlon, ‘In The Name Of The Father’ (played by Pete Postlethwaite)
Based on the case of Gerry Conlon and the Guildford Four, Jim Sheridan’s movie focuses primarily on the relationship between Gerry (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his father Giuseppe, both of whom were wrongly jailed for terrorist offences. Theirs was a complex and uneasy bond, but there was no doubting Giuseppe’s love and dedication to his son.
3 Dessie Curley, ‘The Snapper’ (played by Colm Meaney)
Meaney is the closest thing we have to a national paternal figure, and he is at his most curmudgeonly and ‘Daddy-ish’ in this 1993 classic. From heading up the Barrytown Wheelies to boning up on his female anatomy ahead of the birth of his first grandchild, Dessie Curley is a man who will fight for the honour of his family (and come home with a nosebleed).
4 Miley Byrne, ‘Glenroe’ (played by Mick Lally)
A Sunday night staple back in the 1980s and 90s, Glenroe could always be relied on for its wholesome(ish) depiction of Irish rural life. At the centre of it all was the quintessential hard-working husband and father, Miley Byrne. In 1997, Miley ended up having a chaste enough hay roll with his wife’s cousin Fidelma, and in a way the entire nation felt a bit betrayed.
5 Charlo Spencer, ‘Family’ (played by Sean McGinley)
McGinley’s powerful performance as the charismatic, abusive head of the Spencer family gave this BBC drama, directed by Michael Winterbottom and written by Roddy Doyle, serious heft. A typical hustler and thief, Charlo is a great, popular man in the pub who terrorises his wife Paula, son John-Paul and daughter Nicola. An uneasy watch, but an on-screen tour de force nonetheless.
6 Eamon, ‘Bridget & Eamon’ (played by Bernard O’Shea)
Bridget is definitely the head of the household, but it doesn’t stop Eamon from trying to assert his authority as loudly and as often as possible. With an ‘indeterminate’ number of children (six to eight, we think), Eamon is certainly kept busy with his notions and keeping his wallet tightly closed as often as possible. If you grew up in 1980s Ireland around dads at all, you will recognise the type.
7 Papa Reilly, ‘Into The West’ (played by Gabriel Byrne)
Jim Sheridan returns to the father-child relationship time and time again in his films, and his tale of two young brothers who set off on horseback to find adventure in Ireland is a true charmer. Poor Papa is ravaged by grief for his wife and alcohol, and the gardaí, social services and school inspectors are regulars to the door of the family’s derelict Ballymun flat. Luckily for all involved, he comes good for his two young boys in the end.
8 Gerry Quinn, ‘Derry Girls’ (played by Tommy Tiernan)
With a father-in-law who finds fault in his every turn, a wife who treats the laundry like a military exercise, and a teenage daughter with a rambunctious clatter of pals, poor Gerry has plenty on his plate. With his mood constantly set to exasperated, Tiernan’s Gerry is a saint in a sensible jumper.
9 Bryan Mills, ‘Taken’ (played by Liam Neeson)
Forced out of retirement when his teenage daughter goes missing in Paris, Mills becomes an absolute superhero and uses every skill in the book to find her. He embarks on a violent journey and has no qualms in killing any baddie in his path to retrieve his kidnapped daughter.
10 Nidge, ‘Love/Hate’ (played by Tom Vaughan-Lawlor)
Fine, so Nidge was perhaps more interested in drug runs, sleeping with the madam in his brothel and not getting killed by adversaries than being any kind of decent role model to his sons. But (spoiler alert) you’d need a heart of stone not to wibble a bit when Nidge notices his young son Warren watching out the window at him as he’s about to meet a very violent end.