Colm Meaney is no stranger to the run down Barrytown district of Dublin depicted in The Commitments, The Snapper, and The Van, having grown up near the much mythologized neighborhood. The Dublin native began his acting career at the age of 14, eventually receiving formal training at Dublin's prestigious Abbey Theatre School of Acting and going on to join the Irish National Theatre Company. Meaney eventually graduated to the English stage, working in various London theaters, and then began to audition for television work, mainly landing bit parts in such TV shows as the cop drama Z Cars.
Meaney moved to the U.S. in 1982, continuing to work mainly on the stage, but gradually made the transition into television and film playing small parts and guest roles on a variety of series. He was part of the cast of One Life to Live from 1986 to 1987, playing Patrick London, and then was hired for a bit part on Encounter at Farpoint, the pilot for the Star Trek: The Next Generation series. He was hired again for another part and then given the role of Chief Miles Edward O'Brien, and quickly went from being a bit player to an important member of the ensemble cast. The character was transferred to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in the pilot for that series, and Meaney became a staple member of the show's cast.
During his tenure on both Star Trek series, Meaney's motion picture career began to take off, as the bit parts he was given gradually became more substantial. Meaney made his greatest impact in smaller films like the so-called Barrytown Trilogy -- The Commitments (1991), in which he played the father of one of the band members; The Snapper (1993), in which he portrayed Dessie, who finds himself out of a job and suddenly a grandfather; and The Van (1996), which cast him as Larry, a layabout who manages to have a grand idea one day that results in his and a friend Bimbo starting a business out of a derelict vending van. Meaney was also notable in 1996's The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain: his Morgan the Goat, a randy Welsh pub owner with a flair for smart remarks, was an appropriate foil for the naive Englishman played by Hugh Grant.
Meaney has continued to divide his time between the U.K. and the U.S., making particularly notable appearances in Paul Quinn's This Is My Father (1998), which cast him as the swishy son of an old gypsy woman; Lodge Kerrigan's Claire Dolan, in which he played a high-class pimp; Ted Demme's Monument Avenue (1998), which featured him as the bullying leader of a Boston gang; and Chapter Zero (2000), an independent comedy that cast Meaney as the cross-dressing father of a struggling writer.
He continued to work steadily well into the 21st century in a variety of projects including Bitter Harvest, Intermission, Layer Cake, and Turning Green. He played soccer coach Don Revie in the sports drama The Damned United before playing the father of a strung-out rockstar in the comedy Get Him to the Greek. He appeared in Robert Redford's historical drama The Conspirator, as well as the period drama Bel Ami.