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.