A native to Ireland, O'Connor grew up in Waterford, then lived in London for 18 months before enrolling in UCLA in Los Angeles, where he earned a bachelor's degree. He then moved up to Toronto, Canada, and studied at what is now Ryerson University.
Returning to his native soil, O'Connor became a producer/director for R.T.E. in Dublin. For the next eight years he produced and directed more than 45 television features and documentaries.
In 1976 he began making dramatic films for Irish television. He later won a BAFTA award for best drama for his work on The Ballroom Romance.
He rose to prominence with his first feature film, Cal, which won the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival. His following features showed similar results. A Month in the Country (1989) starring Colin Firth, Natasha Richardson and Kenneth Branagh won Best Film at the Brussels Film Festival; Fools of Fortune (1990) won Best Picture at the Barcelona Film Festival; Circle of Friends (1994) starring Chris O'Donnell and Minnie Driver became the highest grossing independent film in the U.S. the year of its release; and Dancing at Lughnasa (1997), starring Meryl Streep was recognized as one of the year's top ten films by the National Board of Review. It also garnered O'Connor a Best Director award from the Irish film Board.
Sweet November (2001)
Dancing at Lughnasa (1998)
Inventing the Abbotts (1997)
Circle of Friends (1995)
Fools of Fortune (1990)
January Man (1989)
Stars and Bars (1988)
A Month in the Country (1987)