Niall O'Brien (actor)

Niall O'Brien (8 February 1946 – 25 February 2009) was an Irish actor and member of the Abbey Theatre company, where he appeared in 130 productions. He also appeared in many films and television programmes.[1]

Early lifeEdit

O'Brien was born to Maureen (née Wright) and Michael O'Brien on February 8, 1946. He was the youngest of five children. He was born in Dalkey village, County Dublin, and grew up in nearby Glasthule. He was educated at the CBS Westland Row, Dublin,[2] before going on to join the Abbey School of acting.


After completing his leaving cert O'Brien started a building apprenticeship. Upon being accepted to the Abbey School of acting in the mid-1960s however, he took a year out of his apprenticeship to try a career as an actor, and never went back to the construction industry.

In his career as an Abbey actor he took part in 130 theatre productions,[3] including 27 world premiers. His first part was in the play Galileo in 1965. His last Abbey performance was appearing as Tom Mooney in Drama at Inis-Is Life Worth Living (2005). Niall toured internationally with the Abbey in Europe, Russia and much of the US.

In 1994 he appeared in a play by Irish playwright Teresa Deevy called "Katie Roche"[4] where he played the part of Frank Lawlor.

O'Brien also appeared in numerous television and film appearances throughout his career. These include the parts of Bernard in Ryan's Daughter (1971), Kay in Excalibur (1981), Owen McCarthy in The Year of the French (1982), Agent Rurik in Gorky Park (1983), Captain Twilley in Half Moon St (1986), Det. Insp. Isaac Gissing in Rawhead Rex (1986), Police Superintendent in The Playboys (1992), Josie McCarthy in Broken Harvest (1995) and Mr Moss in Vanity Fair (2004). He also appeared in single episodes of TV series Lovejoy, Boon, A Touch of Frost, Bachelors Walk and The Royal. In 2007 he was directed in the short film Teeth by his son, Ruairí O'Brien. This film went on to win awards at the Galway Film Fleadh and Brest European Short Film Festival .

Personal lifeEdit

He married Brigid Sinnott and they had four children, residing from 1984 in Bray, Co. Wicklow.[citation needed]


O'Brien died at home on 25 February 2009, from cancer, after a 20-month-long illness.[5]


Year Title Role Notes
1970 Ryan's Daughter Bernard
1978 Exposure Oliver
1979 The Outsider Emmet Donovan
1981 Excalibur Kay
1981 Lovespell Corvenal
1983 Gorky Park KGB Agent Rurik
1986 Rawhead Rex Det. Insp. Isaac Gissing
1986 Half Moon Street Captain Twilley
1991 King Ralph McGuire
1992 The Playboys Police Superintendent
1994 Black Beauty Farmer Thoroughgood
1994 Broken Harvest Josie McCarthy
1994 Ailsa Counselor
1995 Braveheart English General
1995 The Long Way Home Ray Priest
1997 The Last Bus Home Jessop's Father
1998 The Legend of 1900 Harbor Master
2000 When Brendan Met Trudy Judge
2000 Rat Man in Bookies
2001 The Emperor's New Clothes Bosun
2003 Goldfish Memory Taxi Driver
2003 Conspiracy of Silence John McLaughlin
2004 Capital Letters McManus
2004 Vanity Fair Mr. Moss
2006 Secret of the Cave Uncle Ben
2008 Situations Vacant Gerry O'Connell (final film role)


  • Katie Roche 1994


  1. ^ "Versatile actor took part in 130 Abbey productions", The Irish Times, 7 March 2009.
  2. ^ "Versatile actor took part in 130 Abbey productions". The Irish Times. 7 March 2009. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  3. ^ "The Abbey Theatre Archive".
  4. ^ "The Teresa Deevy Archive".
  5. ^ "O'BRIEN, Niall : Death notice". The Irish Times. 26 February 2009. Retrieved 12 March 2015.

External linksEdit