|Created by||Margaret Gleeson|
|Starring||List of current characters|
|Theme music composer||Columb Fallahey, Andy O'Callaghan|
|Country of origin||Ireland|
|No. of series||23|
|Executive producer(s)||Brigie de Courcy|
|Location(s)||Raidió Teilifís Éireann, Donnybrook, Dublin 4|
|Camera setup||Multiple-camera setup|
|Running time||23 minutes
(excluding ad breaks)
|Original channel||RTÉ One|
|Picture format||4:3 (1989–2005), 16:9 (2005-Present)|
|Original run||18 September 1989 – present
( 24 years, 316 days)
Fair City is an Irish television soap opera on RTÉ One. Produced by the national broadcaster RTÉ, it was first shown on Monday 18 September 1989. It has won several awards and is the most popular Irish soap opera, as well as the longest running. 
Plots centre on the domestic and professional lives of the residents of Carrigstown, a fictional suburb on the north side of Dublin. The area encompasses a restaurant, pub, garage, corner shop, community centre, charity shop, surgery and various businesses. Originally aired as one half-hour episode per week for a limited run, the show is now broadcast year round in four episodes per week.
Fair City is the most watched drama in Ireland, with regular viewing figures of between 500,000 and 600,000. Created by Margaret Gleeson, it has remained a significant programme in terms of RTE's success and audience share, and also in the history of Irish television drama, tackling many controversial and taboo issues previously unseen on Irish television, such as rape.
- 1 Setting
- 2 Characters
- 3 Production
- 4 Social realism
- 5 History
- 6 Popularity and viewership
- 7 Awards
- 8 Controversy
- 9 RTÉ Player and RTÉ One +1
- 10 Merchandise
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 External links
Fair City is set in Carrigstown, a fictional suburb of Northside Dublin. Many of the scenes take place around the main street in Carrigstown, with notable landmarks on the street including McCoy's pub, Phelan's corner shop (now Spar, formerly Doyle's), The Hungry Pig (formerly The Bistro), the Community Centre (formerly The Haven) and Vino's (formerly Rainbows Sandwich Bar). Other notable settings include the Acorn Cabs dispatch centre, the shared office, the Helping Hand charity shop, the surgery and most recently The Station.
According to the RTÉ Guide, Carrigstown is bounded by Drumcondra to the north, the city centre to the south, East Wall to the east and Phibsboro to the west. Carrigstown takes its name from the village that grew up around the quarries in which granite was mined until the early 20th century - carrig being the Irish word for rock.(p76)
Fair City occasionally makes use of real Dublin locations. Sequences have been shot in the Natural History Museum, on Grafton Street, during the Dublin City Marathon, and, more recently the Zoo and on the Luas, as well as at the National Ploughing Championships.
The series was originally focused on four families: the O'Hanlons, the Kellys, the Clarkes and the Doyles. Some of the earlier characters also included Lily Corcoran, her womanizing nephew, Jack Flynn, Paul Brennan, who worked for Jack Flynn, and Linda O'Malley, an acquaintance of a Jack's, to whom he had promised fame as a singer. This was similar to the British soap EastEnders, which also originally focused on a number of families and the community in which they lived. Over time the emphasis has moved away from the four families and grown to include the wider community of Carrigstown.
During the 1990s the Phelan, Doyle, and Molloy families were introduced and dominated storylines for that decade. Bela and Rita Doyle, along with their brood of five children and Rita's mother Hannah, were involved in many stories. The Phelan family originally consisted of Hughie and Natalie, but later a new branch of the family arrived including Hughie's mother Eunice, and his brother Christy, along with Christy's wife Renee, and their two children Floyd and Farrah. The Molloy family was introduced in the mid-1990s and consisted of patriarch Harry, his wife Dolores, and their two teenage children Wayne and Lorraine.
The Halpin family was gradually introduced in the early 2000s, but since then the show's focus has shifted to individual characters more than family groupings. Notable characters introduced subsequently include Carol Meehan, Tracey Kavanagh, Ray O'Connell, and Jo Fahey. Another change in recent years has been the introduction of ethnic minority characters such as Lana Dowling (née Borodin) and the Udenze family. However, the Udenzes moved back to England after the father Gabriel was burnt to death in a fire, and Lana Dowling was kidnapped and murdered. In 2009 an Israeli character was introduced to the show – Avi Bar Lev (Asaf B. Goldfrid). Avi hails from the town of Haifa in Israel.
2012 brought the additions of the Dillon family – Father Tommy, Mother Judith three daughters Caoimhe Dillon, Neasa Dillon and Dearbhla Dillon, and son Zak. The Bishops arrived in 2009, consisting of mother Vivienne, her sons Decco, Denzo and Zumo and daughter Charlotte. Vivienne's niece Sasha Bishop was introduced in 2012 and Father Paddy Bishop in 2013.
Charlie Kelly and Paul Brennan are the only original characters currently in the show.
Former executive producer Niall Mathews believes the soap's success is due to the large cast and the fact that no single character or group of characters dominates. "Difficulties are inherent if you are dealing with just one family", he says. "Look at Dallas and Dynasty; both did well at the beginning, but because all the action was centred on a single family, the writers ran out of things to say.
Each week rehearsals for the four episodes take place on Saturday and Monday. Shooting takes place on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the interior scenes are filmed at Studios A and C on RTÉ's Montrose campus. The exterior scenes are filmed on the lot within the grounds of the RTÉ Headquarters on Thursday and on location on Friday.(p96) Scripts are prepared up to six months in advance, and episodes are shot six weeks before being aired. The series is planned in various stages. The first stage is the development of story and plot, which is done by a team of writers. Once the stories have been fleshed out and agreed, a scene breakdown is created. The episodes are then assigned to script writers, who create the dialogue and stage directions for the actors.(pp30–33)
Running in parallel with the writing process is the production process, which includes: casting, wardrobe, make-up, design and construction of sets, purchase of props, finding locations, booking facilities, developing schedules, and other administrative tasks involved in managing a large production. From 1989 until 1994, all interior shots were filmed at Ardmore Studios, near Bray, County Wicklow. In 1994, production moved to studios at Montrose specifically adapted to cater for this flagship drama. All exterior shots were initially filmed at real houses in a real cul-de-sac in Barron Place, Drumcondra and later in Booterstown.(p108) In 1991, a street set, known as the lot, was built at Ardmore. In 1994, the present lot was built at RTE.
The show has had four different opening sequences and four different theme tunes. The opening features several scenes of contemporary Dublin, while the closing credits show a frozen image of the River Liffey.
Fair City's original theme tune was composed by Adam Lynch and Hugh Drumm. They were asked to come up with a piece of music that would be "easy on the ear, have a certain warmth, conjure up a feeling of Dublin and manage to reflect the mood of the programme.(p102) The second theme tune was introduced in 1995, the third in 2005 and the fourth in 2008. The 1995 theme is an orchestral version of the original. The 2005 theme is an upbeat piano version of the 1995 one. The present theme, composed by Columb Farrelley and Andy O'Callaghan, is a jazzed up version of the original.
The second opening sequence was introduced in 1995 when the then executive producer John Lynch decided that the opening needed modernising. It was designed by John Hayes in collaboration with John Lynch. For 10 years, the opening remained unchanged, aside from the digital insertion of the Millennium Bridge. In order to be compatible with wide-screen format and show the changing face of Dublin, a new opening, designed by Michael McKeon, was introduced in 2005.(pp122–123) The present opening, designed by Paul Gibney, was introduced in 2008.
The show has featured a number of gritty and controversial storylines reflecting major issues in Irish society, particularly from the mid-1990s. Former executive producer Niall Mathews said: "We don't hang out a banner saying we are dealing with rape and murder as issues. One of our characters gets raped and the story is how it affects her, her family and the community. We are not doing issue-driven programs. We use issues to illuminate the characters more than to illuminate the issues."
In 1996, three years after homosexuality was decriminalised in Ireland, male characters Eoghan and Liam moved in for a clinch – only to be interrupted. It would have been the first gay kiss on Irish television. Nowadays Fair City deals with LGBT themes more openly and more regularly. Yvonne, one of the soap's main characters, is bisexual, and used to date Connie from Australia. They were to have been married in Northern Ireland. Laura, a lesbian, formed a relationship with social worker Emily, only to have it broken up by the jealous, bitter and deranged Lucy. Troy, the son of Leo Dowling (another major character), is openly gay. Also, in 1996, teacher Barry O'Hanlon and student Niamh Cassidy had an illicit relationship.
In 1998, the show tackled the subject of rape, with the rape of Lorriane Molloy by Dr Jack Shanahan, who later committed suicide. Also, Kay McCoy began a relationship with Catholic priest Malachy Costello, who then left the priesthood and married Kay in 1999. Leo Dowling's wife Sandie slept with his son Dean after finding out that Leo was having an affair. Helen Doyle died in a car accident.Foster care was shown in 1999 when Kay and Malachy fostered teenager Lorcan Foley. Abortion was portrayed in the early 2000s when Kay decided to abort her pregnancy despite Malachy's wishes, for fear the child would be born severely disabled. Drug addiction has also been portrayed a number of times. One of Fair City's best-known storylines took place in 2001, with crime lord Billy Meehan abusing his wife Carol and mistress Tracey McGuigan before being murdered by Carol's son Lorcan. Prostitution was also shown in 2001 when Tracey turned to prostitution in order to pay for drugs.
Prostate cancer awareness was raised in June 2002 (Bela Doyle's battle with prostate cancer). Gambling addiction was depicted, with Malachy's gambling addiction. Mental health issues were confronted in December 2002 when Yvonne Doyle developed schizophrenia (which led to her taking a drug overdose in a failed suicide attempt). In 2003, storylines included teenage pregnancy (14-year-old Kira Cassidy giving birth to a baby girl, Juliet)  and Heather Lyons' relationship with her half-brother Floyd Phelan). An Accident and Emergency special was aired in March 2003. Also, domestic abuse was highlighted with the Halpin family when Tess was murdered by her husband Marty following years of domestic abuse. The episode aired on 3 April 2003 and RTÉ had to set up a help-line following the episode. More recently in 2010, there was a domestic abuse storyline involving Tess's eldest son Damian. This time Damian's partner Suzanne was the abusive person in the relationship and this ultimately led to them breaking up. A week-long special dealt with date rape and teen suicide against the backdrop of the educational system.(p144)
In 2004, Fair City continued to feature hard-hitting issues such as eating disorders (Robin McKenna's bulimia) and teacher Sorcha Byrne's illicit affair with 19-year-old student Ross O'Rourke  (which cultivated in Barry O'Hanlon being overcome by clinical depression and having a mental breakdown). A three week-long special dealt with Catholic Church politics, the legal system and the clerical sexual abuse of children.(p144) Homelessness was shown in 2005 when Cleo Collins slept rough on the streets. Gangland killing was also featured in 2005 when Mick O'Shea killed Alex, a member of a criminal Ukrainian gang, under the orders of crime lord Sylvester Garrigan (which led to his niece Ali being held hostage by them in 2006). Breast cancer awareness was raised (Nicola Prendergast's battle with breast cancer). Also, accidental drug overdose was highlighted, with the death of Dolores Molloy's baby Jessica from an accidental Ecstasy overdose when Ross left some ecstasy tablets on the floor of the Molloy household. A two week-long special looked at the murkier side of yuppie life against the backdrop of property speculation reflecting the Celtic Tiger.(p149)
In 2006, the gangland storyline was revisited, with a chain of bad fortune for Garrigan ultimately leading to his downfall. First, he was wounded in a drive-by shooting, which was an assassination attempt on his life by the Ukrainian gang in retaliation for killing Alex. Subsequently, a sting operation by undercover Garda Rory Goff found drugs that Lorcan was piggybacking on one of Garrigan's booze runs. Garrigan was furious that Lorcan had implicated him in drug-dealing and he ordered Lorcan to kill Rory. As Rory and Lorcan confronted each other, Lorcan fired the first shot, but Rory struck back with another, wounding them both in the process. Rory survived, but Lorcan's days were numbered. Lorcan complete death-bed confession to the Gardai before he died in hospital. Garrigan was arrested and was never seen again, but he is assumed to be in prison. Tim Carney's domineering marriage with Olga was also featured. Racism was shown when the Udenze family were targeted by racists Pete Flanngan and Morgan Dalton.
In 2007, the show tackled the subject of bullying, with the bullying of Mark Halpin. Missing persons were also highlighted in 2007 with the disappearance of Lana Dowling. In 2008, the show dealt with the issue of euthanasia (Floyd's death in a pact with Heather's husband Brendan). The Criminal Assets Bureau was shown when Carol lost her pub and nightclub which were purchased by Billy with his ill-gotten gains. In 2009 mental health issues were confronted such as Keith McGrath's desertion of the British Army and Bill Taylor's psychological torture over Annette Daly's alcoholism. 2009 also saw the show's first bi-sexual love triangle and lesbian storyline when Yvonne Doyle had an affair with her best friend Connie Boylan.
In 2010, Damien Halpin's unemployment reflects the 2008–2012 Irish financial crisis. In addition the many scenes of domestic abuse towards Damien by his wife Suzanne have brought into the open the taboo subject of spousal abuse towards males. The series has been praised for this edgy and at times controversial storyline. It proved to be so popular that British soap opera Coronation Street later did their own version. Organ donor awareness was raised in 2011 when Lucy Mallon received a cornea transplant. Wearing pyjamas during the day was covered with Sash Bishop. Aside from this, soap opera staples of youthful romance, jealousy, rivalry, gossip and extramarital affairs are regularly featured. Late 2011/early 2012 saw Orla Kirwan and Caoimhe Dillon engage in numerous shoplifting sprees around Dublin. In April 2012, life in prison was covered, with prisoner Decco Bishop fearing for his life behind bars. Domestic violence has been a recurring theme in Fair City, most recently in 2013 with the introduction of the character Paddy Bishop, who is captured on screen flaking his wife Vivienne with a belt.
In December 2013, Yvonne Doyle is raped by Internet predator Martin Baxter. He later bombards her with calls and texts, and calls to her restaurant Vino's and threatens her, but she later reports him to the police. In January 2014, Paul Brennan finds himself the victim of a blackmail plot when Jane extorts €40,000 from him. In March 2014, Yvonne faces a trial which she is terrified about. Also, in February/March 2014, bullying is covered with the bullying of Rachel Brennan by Amanda Ryan, who torments Rachael along with a group of girls. In April/May 2014, stalking is shown, with stalker Tommy Dillon's campaign of terror towards his ex-wife Judith. Tommy is eventually outed as the stalker and, in late May 2014, holds Judith hostage with a gun. In July 2014, Christy Phelan faces a health battle when he suffers a stroke.
Concept and inspiration
In 1988, a year before Fair City hit the screens, the show was a vague idea conceived by RTÉ when it decided that it needed an urban soap opera to compete with Coronation Street and EastEnders.(p12) RTE initially commissioned a run of 13 episodes. Margaret Gleeson, known for her work on Tolka Row and The Riordans, was the show's first Executive Producer. Paul Cusack and David McKenna were the first producers. Tony Holland – co-creator of EastEnders – was brought in to give the soap its structure and storylines.
Fair City derives its title from the opening line of the traditional song "Molly Malone": "In Dublin's fair city, where the girls are so pretty..." and is the only English-language soap opera produced in Ireland. The show was launched with an hour-long pilot episode in September 1989 (p13) and at the time was described as "the most ambitious production of its kind ever undertaken by RTÉ".
Fair City was not an instant success and was on shaky ground for a couple of seasons. Former executive producer John Lynch recalled: "My impression of it at the time was of nothing happening very fast, then you'd cut to a scene where nothing happened even faster, then there would be a shot of somebody riding a bicycle stuck in between. They were trying to copy Eastenders, but Tony Holland didn't realise that the Irish are less direct than the English.
in 1990, RTE executives initially cancelled the show after the first season. However, they then decided to renew it for a second season and bring in Irish writer Mary Halpin in place of Tony Holland.(subscription required)
Tony Tormey, who plays Paul Brennan, explains: “He [Tony Holland] just didn’t have the Irish thing. The scripts were all in a different idiom. They were written in Londonese rather than Dublinese. It just didn’t work so they cancelled it. But they stuck with it and brought Mary Halpin in. It was almost like starting again.”
The introduction of strong story lines centring around the Doyle and Molloy families in the early 1990s began to gradually improve the soap's popularity and were overseen by the new executive producer Niall Mathews, who was in charge from 1990 to 2008, apart from the period between 1994 and 1998.(p24) He oversaw the show's transformation from a minor, urban drama into one of Ireland's major soaps, challenging Glenroe in the ratings. In 1994 John Lynch became executive producer and during his time Fair City began dealing with gritty and controversial issues previously unseen on Irish television.
On 17 January 2002, Fair City reached its 1,000th episode. In 2004, the soap opera celebrated its fifteenth year by broadcasting an hour-long compilation episode entitled Fair City: The Ten Commandments. This episode showed old clips of characters breaking the Ten Commandments. It also featured interviews with the cast, writers, creator and fans. On 30 November 2006, Fair City reached its 2,000th episode.
In 2008 Brigie de Courcy was appointed Executive Producer of Fair City. During her reign, the soap has received critical acclaim for its more credible, sophisticated and psychological stories. In September 2011, Fair City celebrated its 3,000th episode. In 2013, Fair City's 24th anniversary was celebrated with an explosive hour-long special, in which characters Damien, Caoimhe, Tommy and Luke were trapped in a fire at a factory.
The show was initially aired with one episode per week for a limited run (16 weeks). In 1990, RTÉ opted to recommission the soap and air one episode a week between September and June, taking a summer break. In 1994, its output was increased to twice weekly on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7pm. In 1996, the show started being broadcast all year around with one weekly episode during the summer months. In 1998 an extra episode was added and a fourth was added in 2001. In 2000, a second weekly episode was added in the summer. In 2003, the soap started airing four episodes all year-round from the summer of that year. In 2004, Friday's 8.30 pm episode was moved to Sunday nights at 8pm.
Many viewers in Northern Ireland, Wales and North-western England can watch Fair City on RTÉ One, because much of the population are able to receive Irish television through spillover, including RTÉ One with British based ads instead of Irish based ads. During the 1990s UTV broadcast the show during the day.
Fair City was shown on the Tara Television network in the United Kingdom via cable and Sky Digital from 1997 until the closure of the station in 2002. Classic episodes were shown in the daytime and repeated in the early evenings on weekdays, and current episodes were simulcast with RTÉ One.
In 2011, BWG Foods, operators of the SPAR brand in Ireland, invested €900,000 in a three-year deal to have SPAR appear in Fair City. The new shop, formerly Christy Phelan's corner shop, was unveiled in an episode broadcast on 6 December 2011. It was RTÉ's first high-profile product placement deal, and followed the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland's decision to allow paid product placement on Irish television, in line with relaxed EU regulations. There are 450 Spar outlets in the Republic of Ireland. RTÉ was obliged to inform viewers before each episode aired it contained product placement. RTÉ said that Fair City's editor-in-chief would ensure there were no gratuitous references or prominence given to Spar that would not happen anyway.
Popularity and viewership
Fair City enjoys consistently high official viewing statistics. The viewing figures for each episode are around 500,000 – 600,000 and rise to 700,000 or more for specials. The soap is hugely popular with viewers outside of Dublin. It attracts the highest audiences for any drama on Irish television, beating stalwart British imports such as Coronation Street, Emmerdale and EastEnders in the ratings. The launch show attracted 1.06 million viewers. On 21 November 2001, Fair City attracted 840,000 viewers who tuned in to see Billy Meehan being killed by Lorcan Foley. 660,000 viewers tuned in to watch Sylvester Garrigan get shot on 19 January 2006. 731,000 fans watched on 23 November 2010 to see the latest development featuring battered husband Damien Halpin.  The show was not an instant ratings success in the first couple of seasons, but became more favourable in subsequent seasons, when there were strong story lines centring around the Doyle and Molloy families. The serial was not initially a critical success, but it has received acclaim recently for its more credible, sophisticated and psychological stories under executive producer Brigie de Courcy.
The Wire star Reg E. Cathey has expressed his interest in a part on the show, saying he would like to play "an American guy coming to meet his daughter who is now a big singer, someone like Laura Izibor". Alex Lester was beyond "gitty" to hear there were American viewers!
The programme was nominated for an IFTA as 'Best Television Drama' in the years 2000 and 2003. Stuart Dunne, who portrayed Billy Meehan, was nominated for an IFTA as 'Best Actor in a Television Drama' in 2003.
Pat Nolan, who plays Barry O'Hanlon, won a Rose d'Or award in the 'Best Soap Actor' category at the international Rose d'Or Festival in Switzerland on 7 May 2005. The series has also been nominated for a TVNow Award as 'Favourite Soap' in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. Its first ever victory, in 2008, was matched by a second victory in 2009. Fair City won 'Best Soap in the International Entertainment' category, at the Mediamixx festival in Bulgaria in July 2007.
RTÉ pays some Fair City cast members only €432 a day, although the soap generates revenue in the region of €7m each year for RTÉ. Tommy O'Neill, the actor who plays Detective Deegan, was embroiled in a row with another taxi driver over a €10 fare in November 2011.
As a result of a storyline, school managers feared that students were starting "copycat" fight clubs in post primary schools around the country. RTÉ has also launched an investigation into how a convicted paedophile appeared as an extra in the soap. Fair City was criticised by Down's Syndrome Ireland for using the derogatory term "mongo" in the 20 January 2006 episode.
RTÉ Player and RTÉ One +1
At the launch of the RTÉ Player, Fair City was provided for one month as part of the trial service. It was later removed as the actor's union (Equity Ireland) would not agree to terms to provide the show online. On 27 May 2011, RTÉ One +1 launched on Saorview without Fair City, during the broadcast of Fair City the following announcement was made "This programme is not available on Saorview". In May 2012, this changed; and Fair City is now available on both RTÉ One +1 and RTÉ Player.
- List of Fair City characters
- List of past Fair City characters
- List of soap operas with LGBT characters
- Ros na Rún
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- Irish Examiner - 3 September 2004
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- Official website
- Digital Spy spoilers and news – Fair City
- Fair City fans Facebook Fan Page
- Fair City at the Internet Movie Database
- Fair City at TV.com
- Fair City Fan Page