This much I know: Alan Howley, actor

I was a very mouthy kid, the youngest of five and very precocious.

I wanted to be an actor ever since I saw Bryan Murray as the bad guy in Blood Brothers when I was around 10. That show really moved me. Maybe it was egocentric of me but I imagined myself up there on stage like him.

My dad was headmaster in a national school in Finglas. My mother was a nurse and then she raised the five of us. My parents were not directly involved in the arts but they were avid theatre goers. 

I never got into any trouble at school. I attended a different school to the one where my father taught. I was academic but lazy. I thought if things come easy, then they are not worth anything.

I was in Dublin Youth Theatre from the age of 16 but when I told my parents I wanted to be an actor they insisted I should have something to fall back on so I began to study communications. 

Almost immediately, I knew I couldn’t stick it. Eventually, I asked the college chaplain to break it to my parents that I was going to leave. They were kind of devastated. Dublin wasn’t exactly a hotbed of creativity back then.

After moving to Cork, working with Graffiti and Corcadorca, I got disheartened with the acting thing and studied Performance in Dartington College of Arts in Devon, which lead to me writing and performing my work in theatres and galleries and on radio.

I moved back to Dublin and started working with organisations such as Simon and Focus. I was a staff member at a drop-in centre in Thomas Street for five unhappy years. I found the politics of organisations very frustrating.

The trait I most desire in others is decisiveness. When someone can make a decision and hold onto it even when others disagree with them.

I met my wife Lisa at work. She asked me why I was there if I didn’t enjoy it. I told her it was supposed to be a stop gap. Then I heard myself tell her I still wanted to be an actor. 

Once the words were out, she said you have to deal with that then. She encouraged me to take redundancy and to start doing shows again, even though she had never seen me act.

My father had a bad heart and at one point he was debating whether or not to give up work after a heart attack. I’ll never forget his answer when I asked him if he’d enjoyed his job. He said he’d been a teacher for 35 years and f-ing hated every minute.

Lisa is very grounded. There is a solidness about her I was immediately unconsciously attracted to.

My idea of misery is doing the same thing over and over, regardless of what that might be. I enjoy juggling different things. I love playing Eoghan O’Brien, the taxi driver on Fair City, but what’s particularly good is I get weeks on and weeks off.

We have two kids of three and six and, when I’m working, I’m dying to get back to minding them. Then, when I’ve been at home with them for a few weeks, I’m happy to get back on set again.

If I could be reborn as someone else for a day I’d like to be an Irish politician just to see what the inside of their world looks like. I have a genuinely held belief that you must have a personality disorder to be in politics.

My biggest fault is cowardice. My biggest challenge has been becoming a parent.

My idea of happiness has changed with the arrival of children. My career is less about getting a big break and more about getting regular work. To be a middle-aged dad about it, having enough money to be able to pay the bills.

If I could change one thing in Ireland I’d change the faceless corporate culture that is creeping in and the nature of customer service. It seems to be impossible to talk to anyone who is responsible for anything in the utilities and other big organisations. And nobody is willing to say they messed up.

So far life has taught me - always bring a book.

Alan Howley plays Eoghan O’Brien, the taxi driver on RTÉ’s Fair City, and is one part of Breach and Quinn whose new play Score runs at Project Arts Centre as part of Tiger Dublin Fringe from September 7 to 19. — 


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