Why are there so few Irish women cast in films that are made here?

Irish actresses are missing out on commercial opportunities, writes Anna Doyle

Casting practices in films shot here raise questions about equal opportunities for women in the film industry in Ireland.

By allowing the double-standard of casting Irish men in roles written for Irish men (see Paul Mescal in Normal People and Jamie Dornan in Wild Mountain Thyme) while casting non-Irish women in Irish roles, we deny Irish actresses equal access to commercial and career opportunities.

Mescal, for instance, was an unknown name in Ireland let alone the rest of the world before the arrival of Normal People, and he has since gone on to win an Emmy nomination for his depiction of Connell in the BBC’s adaptation of Sally Rooney’s novel.

The novel was an Irish-centric story yet an English female lead was cast as an Irish woman.


Whether the leading actresses in these projects do a good job or not is beside the point: the subtext is that the entertainment industry is admitting that relatively unknown Irish male actors are worth taking a chance on, whereas the women are not.

There are very few Irish actresses on the international circuit. They include Saoirse Ronan, Fiona Shaw with Jessie Buckley currently climbing the ranks. By restricting new Irish actresses in Irish roles, the chances of them being given an opportunity to reach career heights equal to Ronan are slim to none.

Cillian Murphy, Colin Farrell, Liam Neeson, Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson: and these names are only the superstars. We still have to get through Jack Reynor, Aiden Gillen, Liam Cunningham, Barry Keoghan.

After sitting through Sing Street, Michael Collins, About Adam, Circle of Friends, Philomena, Angela's Ashes - most of which were excellent films - the message for the female actresses of Ireland is that it's easier to get the job of representing Ireland through film if you've never really experienced Ireland.

* Anna Doyle is a student at NUI Galway.