People expecting a chocolate-box view of Ireland in ITV1 detective drama Single-Handed got a nasty shock when the series launched. But it’s won fans for its gritty portrayal of life on the west coast of Ireland and now returns for a new series. Owen McDonnell reprises his role as Connemara policeman Jack Driscoll, the copper responsible for patrolling a huge area of wild countryside with its fair share of drama. The first two-parter highlights the abuse scandal involving industrial schools, where children were sent for minor misdemeanors right up until the Seventies…
Single-Handed has shown a different side to Ireland, has there been adverse reaction from locals?
I don’t think so. It holds a mirror up to contemporary Ireland and just happens to be set in a rural place. It deals with issues like clerical abuse and corruption that have touched all our lives, and people have become more aware of that in recent years.
In the first two-parter Jack discovers he has a secret uncle (played by Stephen Rea) who was sent to an industrial school where he was abused. How does he react?
At first he thinks it’s fantastic because he’s a person of his father’s age who could be a positive influence in his life, but it doesn’t turn out that way.
Because his Uncle Sean needs more help than he can give. He also discovers that his own father, who died, destroyed Sean’s life even further after he left the school by stopping him from returning home. There’s a huge journey for Jack to travel and, although he comes out the other end in a better place, he’s gone through the mill in a big way.
Once again you filmed the series on the west coast of Ireland. Have you noticed a change since the recession hit?
Things have got a lot worse financially and everyone’s been affected. I live in London and haven’t been back very recently, but the general mood is not positive and there’s a lot of anger.
What’s been the experience of your friends in Galway?
A lot of my friends have bought houses and can’t afford to sell because they can’t afford to take the financial hit. So they have to stay put and hope that work is there, they are kind of stranded. If you’re younger you can leave as lots of people have, but if you’re older, you have loans to pay off.
What have you been up to since you finished Single-Handed?
I’ve managed to get work on my house finished and I’ve filmed a comedy drama for Sky One called Mount Pleasant with Sally Lindsay, Bobby Ball, Liza Tarbuck and Angela Griffin.
You’ve been with your girlfriend Jill for several years, any plans to marry?
I’m not going to be put under pressure by you! We went to seven or eight weddings last year which is enough! We’re very happy.
Would you like a family?
Yes, I think we would like to have a family at some point, we’ll deal with it when it happens. I have a very practical attitude to kids. They’re the most important thing in your life but you have to maintain a life as well.