1. Brendan Gleeson in The Treaty (1991)
Five years before Michael Collins was made, RTE made The Treaty: a large scale production of the the treaty negotiations with the British Government after the War of Independence. This brilliant production starred a huge amount of Irish acting talent from stage and screen but it was the then unknown Gleeson who played Michael Collins. He was superb and still eclipses the Liam Neeson portrayal from the Neil Jordan production. It would be well worth seeking out on dvd if in fact it was available on dvd - it's not. Meanwhile it is available to watch on Youtube.
2. Ray Mc Anally in A Very British Coup (1988)
Quite simply one of the best conspiracy TV shows ever made. It is the story of a working class man, Harry Perkins (Mc Anally), who becomes Prime Minister in the UK in the 1980s. This shows a different world than today (a left wing Labour party?) but the political intrigue and shadowy background forces operating behind the scenes is as relevant as ever. This is Mc Anally's finest performance: he is an immense presence and totally convincing. Available to buy on dvd from the 19th September (RTE take note).
3. Gabriel Byrne in Defence of the Realm (1985)
There was a temptation to put the Byrne's performance in the Coen Brothers film Millers Crossing in here. It is rightly famous for being one of their best films but there is a surprising number of people who have yet to see it. But in the end this had to be the selection. Alongside A Very British Coup this is another 1980s reaction to the Thatcher led British Government and an enjoyable political thriller in its own right. Byrne is a treat in this and it is nice to see him in a lead role so early in his career. There is also another Coen Brothers connection with regular cinematographer Roger Deakins working on this film. Available on dvd.
4. Stephen Rea in Citizen X (1995)
This little seen and underrated film stars Stephen Rea as a policeman in charge of the investigation to find the serial killer Andrej Chikatilo in Soviet Russia from 1978 to 1990. This film is in some ways a typical police procedural but it is given extra weight by the amount of political red tape and interference by the Soviet government. It also boasts a superb, restrained turn by Rea in a rare leading role. Available on dvd. Apologies for the poor quality trailer.
5. Pierce Brosnan in Taffin (1988)
OK, so maybe not the greatest choice of film but it is included here to illustrate the standard of film made in Ireland before Jim Sheridan and Neil Jordan made their mark. Brosnan looks good in this, and you can see why Bond producers wanted him star in that franchise long before he actually did. The trailer is hilarious and just about awful enough to see if the film is available to buy on dvd. Rather shockingly it is, yet I Went Down is unavailable, what a strange world this is.
Have you got any that I haven't included? Let me know below.