Arts Q&A: Ruairi Conaghan on Ian Dury, JD Salinger and Eric Cantona

Jenny Lee puts performers and artists on the spot about what really matters to them. This week, actor and playwright Ruairi Conaghan...

Jenny Lee
Ruairi Conaghan in Lies Where It Falls, which comes to the Lyric on September 29


1. When did you think about a career in theatre and what were your first steps into it?

My mother, Marie, was a wonderful amateur actress and director, and I was the kid that was dragged to rehearsals or was helping her with her lines. Rather than being bored, I was enthralled by it all. That was a pretty big clue right there.

2. Best gigs you've been to?

Best live band I've seen was Ian Dury and The Blockheads at Victoria Park London. Dury was dying of cancer at the time. Gave a phenomenal performance.

Eddie Reader at the Ulster Hall last year. She's a phenomenal storyteller and her voice is heavenly.

Declan O'Rourke at Custom House Square, summer '22. His songwriting is sublime. His band was glorious. After the gig, I just wanted to go back in and make him do the whole thing again.


Declan O'Rourke


3. Fantasy wedding/birthday party band?

The Style Council: political soul and funk, proper 80s music.

4. The record you'd take to a desert island and why?

Probably The Best of Ennio Morricone. His lush cinematic scores would suit the idyllic vistas of the island (I'm presuming it is idyllic). I'm always transported to somewhere listening to his music, and not necessarily to the world of the film. That's what a great composer can do.


The late great Ennio Morricone


5. And the book you'd take to a desert island and why?

Wuthering Heights. I read it first in my dingy Belfast flat when I was 18. Changed my life. I'm not sure I liked any of the characters. Most of them are champions of cruelty, but it made me really explore the human psyche: why were they like that? It helped me in my acting and writing. Still does.

6. Top three films and why?

Angels With Dirty Faces. Great title and Jimmy Cagney is the best actor ever.


Angels With Dirty Faces


Persuasion with Ciarán Hinds and Amanda Root. The best cinematic interpretation of Austen's work. Just a cracking love story and Ciarán Hinds looks so cool.

An Cailín Ciúin (The Quiet Girl). Every scene is so perfect in this film. Beautifully played and shot. The emotion of the ending is wonderful. I think it's one of the finest Irish movies ever made.

Read more:

Ruairi Conaghan on new highly personal one man show Lies Where It Falls

Review: Lies Where It Falls reveals the painful truth of acting


7. Worst film you've seen and why?

Not really my cup of tea anyway, but Jaysus, the last Lord Of The Rings movie was never-ending and I was comatose with boredom by the end of it. Nearly had to be carried out.

8. Favourite authors?

JD Salinger. Not just because of Catcher In The Rye. I love his other three books, particularly his collection of short stories, For Esme with Love and Squalor.


The Quiet Girl (An Cailin Ciuin)


The Quiet Girl film made me aware of Claire Keegan and I have just gobbled up her novellas.

Anna Burns: Milkman is possibly the best story of the conflict I've read. I record audiobooks and so have really gotten into listening to them now. Bríd Brennan's reading of Milkman is a work of art. Have a listen.

9. Sports you most enjoy and top teams?

My son has nearly broken me with his discovery of tennis this summer. I love my footy and my rugby. I was brought up with Manchester United then switched to Crystal Palace. Now, I look out for both of them.

Having such a good Ireland rugby team is both a joy and a curse. My favourite sports guys are Andy Murray and Rory McIlroy. Their commitment is phenomenal and they seem like good fellows.

10. Ideal holiday destination?

Inishowen, Donegal. It's my happy place. Every new generation of our family falls in love with it. But don't be telling anyone about it – it's ours.


Inishowen, Co Donegal 


11. Pet hates?

They start with 'T' and end with 'ories'.

12. What's your favourite:

Dinner? Lamb with Dauphinoise potatoes. Yum.

Dessert? Syrup sponge with custard. School dinner magic.

Drink? I stopped drinking about five years ago, so the invention of Guinness 0.0% is a godsend. Genuinely tastes like the real thing.


Guinness 0.0% (Aerial Photography Ireland/Andres Poveda/PA)


13. Who is your best friend and how do you know each other?

I've been very lucky in my friendships. Lifelong pals. But my wife, Caitriona, is the 'one', not just because she's my supportive companion, but because she challenges me. If I have ever amounted to anything in this world, it's mostly because of her.

14. Is there a God?

Yes – and his name is Eric Cantona.


Eric Cantona in action (Dave Kendall/PA)


Ruairi Conaghan's acclaimed play, Lies Where It Falls, comes to the Lyric Theatre in Belfast from September 29 to October 1. Tickets via