Fair City

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Fair City
Genre Soap opera
Created by Margaret Gleason
Starring List of current characters
Country of origin Ireland
Original language(s) English
No. of series 23
Executive producer(s) Brigie de Courcy
Producer(s) Teresa Smith
Location(s) Raidió Teilifís Éireann, Donnybrook, Dublin 4
Camera setup Multiple-camera setup
Running time 23 minutes
(excluding ad breaks)
Original channel RTÉ One
Original run 18 September 1989 – present
(24 years, 213 days)
External links

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[1][2][3] and is the most popular Irish soap opera, as well as the longest running.[4]

Plots centre on the domestic and professional lives of the residents of Carrigstown, a fictional suburb on the north side of Dublin. Originally aired as one half-hour episode per week for a limited run, it 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.


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.

2010 also 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 also 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."[5]


Each week rehearsals for the four episodes take place on Saturday and Monday. From Tuesday to Friday, the interior scenes are recorded on two RTÉ sound stages. The schedule runs from 08:00 to 18:30. The exterior scenes are filmed on Thursday and Friday either on the lot within the grounds of the RTÉ headquarters, or in various locations in Dublin. The series is planned in blocks of 16 episodes. 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.[6]

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 in Wicklow. In 1994, the show moved to studios at RTÉ specifically adapted to cater for this flagship drama. All exterior shots were initially recorded in Drumcondra on Dublin's northside, where residents were politely asked to stay indoors during shooting. Two years later, Carrigstown moved south of the Liffey to RTÉ where set designers replicated the façades and interiors of the original houses.[7]

The show has had four different opening sequences and three different theme songs. The opening features several scenes of contemporary Dublin, while the closing credits show a frozen image of the River Liffey.

Social realism[edit]

The show has featured a number of gritty storylines reflecting major issues in Irish society, particularly from the mid-1990s onwards.

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.[8] 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.

In 1998, the show tackled the subject of rape, with the rape of Lorriane Molloy by Dr Jack Shanahan, who later committed suicide. Abortion was portrayed in the early 2000s as Kay McCoy decided to abort her pregnancy despite her husband Malachy's wishes, for fear the child would be born severely disabled.[9] 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. [10] 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).[11] 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 (Kira Cassidy giving birth to a baby girl, Juliet) and incest (Heather Lyons' relationship with her half-brother Floyd Phelan). Also, domestic abuse was highlighted with the Halpin family when Tess was murdered by her husband Marty following years of domestic abuse.[12] 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.

In 2004, Fair City continued to feature hard-hitting issues such as eating disorders (Robin McKenna's bulimia), gambling addiction (Malachy's gambling addiction) and teacher Sorcha Byrne's illicit affair with 19-year-old student Ross O'Rourke (which culminated in Sorcha's boyfriend Barry O'Hanlon being overcome by clinical depression and having a mental breakdown). Also, accidental drug overdose was highlighted, with the death of Dolores Molloy's baby Jessica from an accidental Ecstasy overdose. 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).[13]

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 Gardai found drugs that Lorcan was piggybacking on one of Garrigan's booze runs. After this heavy setback, Garrigan 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.[14] Missing persons were also highlighted in 2007 with the disappearance of Lana Dowling.[15] 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.[16]

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.[17] It proved to be so popular that British soap opera Coronation Street later did their own version.[18] Organ donor awareness was raised in 2011 when Lucy Mallon received a cornea transplant.[19] Wearing pyjamas during the day was covered with Sash Bishop.[20] Aside from this, soap opera staples of youthful romance, jealousy, domestic 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.[21][22] In April 2012, life in prison was covered, with prisoner Decco Bishop fearing for his life behind bars.[23] 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.[24]

In December 2013, Yvonne Doyle is sexually assaulted 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 March 2014, Yvonne faces a trial which she is terrified about.[25] 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.[26]


Concept and inspiration[edit]

Fair City was conceived in 1989 by RTÉ when it decided that it needed an urban soap opera to compete with Coronation Street and EastEnders.[27] Though the creator of the soap was Margaret Gleason [28] , Tony Holland – co-creator of EastEnders – was brought in to give the soap its structure and storylines for the first season. In 1990, RTE executives initially cancelled the show after the first season, but they then decided to renew it for a second season and bring in Irish writer Mary Halpin in place of Tony Holland.[29]

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.”[30]

"Fair City" derives it's 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 in September 1989 and at the time was described as "the most ambitious production of its kind ever undertaken by RTÉ".[31]

Broadcast format[edit]

The show was initially aired with one episode per week for a limited run (16 weeks).[32] 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 7 pm.[33] After 1997 the show started being broadcast all year around. In 1998 an extra episode was added and a fourth was added in 2001.[34] Up until 2003, the soap only aired two episodes over the summer months however the four episodes were aired all year round from summer of that year.[35][36] In 2004, Friday's 8.30 pm episode was moved to Sunday nights at 8 pm

On 17 January 2002, Fair City reached its 1,000th episode.[37] In 2004, the soap opera celebrated its fifteenth year by broadcasting an hour-long compilation episode entitled Fair City: The Ten Commandments.[38] 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.[39] In September 2011 Fair City celebrated its 3,000th episode.

International screenings[edit]

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,[40] 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.[41] Classic episodes were shown in the daytime and repeated in the early evenings on weekdays, and current episodes were simulcast with RTÉ One.

Product placement[edit]

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.[42][43][44] 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.[45] There are 450 Spar outlets in the Republic of Ireland.[46] RTÉ was obliged to inform viewers before each episode aired it contained product placement.[47] 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.[48]

Popularity and viewership[edit]

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.[49] 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.[50][51][52] The launch show attracted 1.06 million viewers.[53] On 21 November 2001, Fair City attracted 840,000 viewers who tuned in to see Billy Meehan being killed by Lorcan Foley.[54] 731,000 fans watched on 23 November 2010 to see the latest development featuring battered husband Damien Halpin. [55] 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.[56]

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![57]


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.[58]

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.[1] 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.[2] Fair City won 'Best Soap in the International Entertainment' category, at the Mediamixx festival in Bulgaria in July 2007.[3]


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.[59] 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.[60]

As a result of a storyline, school managers feared that students were starting "copycat" fight clubs in post primary schools around the country.[61] RTÉ has also launched an investigation into how a convicted paedophile appeared as an extra in the soap.[62] Fair City was criticised by Down's Syndrome Ireland for using the derogatory term "mongo" in the 20 January 2006 episode.[63]

RTÉ Player and RTÉ One +1[edit]

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".[64] In May 2012, this changed; and Fair City is now available on both RTÉ One +1 and RTÉ Player.


In 2005, script writer Brian Gallagher wrote a book about the show, entitled Inside Fair City.[65] A 20th anniversary DVD under the title Fair City: 20 Years in Carrigstown was released in 2009.[66]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Fair City's Pat Nolan wins Best Soap Actor Award". RTÉ. 7 May 2005. Retrieved 23 March 2007. 
  2. ^ a b "List of Nominated Soaps" TV Now. URL last. Retrieved 5 April 2008.
  3. ^ a b Issue 370, TV Now, published 10 July 2007.
  4. ^ Kilkelly, Daniel (19 October 2008). "Keith Duffy joins Irish soap 'Fair City'". Digital Spy. Retrieved 19 October 2008. 
  5. ^ "[1]" Irish Independent. URL last. Retrieved 16 March 2007.
  6. ^ "[2]" Irish Playwrights & Screenwriters Guild. URL last. Retrieved 16 June 2007.
  7. ^ "Temporary set lands Fair City in hot water" Sunday Times.
  8. ^ "The Nineties: 1996". RTÉ. 15 May 2009. "Three years after homosexuality is decriminalised in Ireland, two gay characters come face-to-face in 'Fair City'. Ireland gets its first-ever on-screen gay kiss. .nearly" 
  9. ^ "The real McCoy" Irish Independent. Retrieved 8 September 2012.
  10. ^ "Soap actor in a lather over whitewash" Sunday Tribune. Retrieved 17 December 2009.
  11. ^ "Why I won't let cancer beat me". Irish Independent. 
  12. ^ "[3]" Irish Independent
  13. ^ RTÉ News http://www.rte.ie/tv50/essays/claudiacarroll.html |url= missing title (help). 
  14. ^ http://www.sligochampion.ie/news/for-emily-the-streets-of-fair-city-are-paved-with-golden-moments-575491.html
  15. ^ http://www.herald.ie/entertainment/around-town/soap-stars-real-life-heartache-1454777.html
  16. ^ "Did Fair City's Ciara O'Callaghan quit Carrigstown real life affair" Daily Mail. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
  17. ^ "Men flood helpline over fair city story" Evening Herald. Retrieved 22 November 2010.
  18. ^ "Corrie's copying our Fair City plots, says Irish star Maclean". Evening Herald. Retrieved 21 March 2012.
  19. ^ "[4]" Evening Herald. Retrieved 9 June 2011.
  20. ^ http://www.herald.ie/entertainment/tv-radio/fair-city-cottons-on-to-pyjamas-trend-2587400.html
  21. ^ "Luck runs out for Fair City thieves". RTÉ Ten (Raidió Teilifís Éireann). 5 January 2012. Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  22. ^ "Confession time in Fair City tonight". RTÉ Ten (Raidió Teilifís Éireann). 11 January 2012. Retrieved 11 January 2012. 
  23. ^ http://www.herald.ie/entertainment/around-town/fair-citys-decco-facing-jail-fight-for-his-life-3080956.html
  24. ^ "Pyscho Paddy Bishop set to meet a grizzly end on Fair City". Irish Independent. 
  25. ^ http://www.irishmirror.ie/news/irish-news/fair-city-star-ciara-ocallaghan-3204155
  26. ^ http://www.irishmirror.ie/whats-on/film-and-tv/fair-city-star-niamh-quirke-3221762
  27. ^ "[5]" Evening Herald. URL last. Retrieved 4 November 2009.
  28. ^ "Fair City: The Ten Commandments" episode
  29. ^ http://www.irishmirror.ie/whats-on/film-and-tv/fair-citys-paul-speaks-shows-2289013
  30. ^ The Irish Times http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/media/the-never-ending-story-1.547249?page=1 |url= missing title (help). 
  31. ^ The Irish Emigrant – 25 June 1989[dead link]
  32. ^ "[6]" RTE. URL last. Retrieved 4 November 2009.
  33. ^ "[7]" RTE. URL last. Retrieved 4 November 2009.
  34. ^ "A tale of two soaps" Irish Independent. URL last. Retrieved 16 June 2007.
  35. ^ "[8]" Sunday Business Post. URL last. Retrieved 16 June 2007.
  36. ^ "[9]" Sunday Business Post. URL last. Retrieved 16 June 2007.
  37. ^ "[10]" Irish Examiner. URL last. Retrieved 16 June 2007.
  38. ^ "[11]" Irish Examiner. URL last. Retrieved 16 June 2007.
  39. ^ "[12]" Irish Examiner. URL last. Retrieved 16 June 2007.
  40. ^ http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/northern-ireland/irish-tv-will-cost-most-viewers-extra-28878221.html.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  41. ^ Independent.ie article on Fair City moving to British TV
  42. ^ "Spar takes residence in Fair City". JOE. 2 November 2011.
  43. ^ "New product placement rules sees Fair City gets a SPAR". The Journal.
  44. ^ "Fair City gets a new SPAR store". RTÉ Ten. 2 November 2011.
  45. ^ Slattery, Laura. "Spar takes dramatic step into 'Fair City' product placement". The Irish Times. 2 November 2011.
  46. ^ Hegarty, Shane. "Spar comes to Carrigstown, but the benefits may be imaginary". The Irish Times. 5 November 2011.
  47. ^ "RTE cuts €900,000 deal for a Spar in 'Fair City'". Irish Independent. 2 November 2011.
  48. ^ Last, Jane. "Viewers put on advert alert as Spar signs up for Fair City". Evening Herald. 2 November 2011.
  49. ^ http://www.herald.ie/news/cocktailmixing-bras-on-the-ceiling-how-fair-city-is-getting-a-new-look-2841734.html
  50. ^ "[13]" Sunday Mail. Retrieved 21 September 2009.
  51. ^ "New Irish TV channel" Sunday Business Post. Retrieved 21 September 2009.
  52. ^ http://www.sundayworld.com/top-stories/fair-citys-star-i-love-playing-mondo-but-he-became-a-burden
  53. ^ "[14]" RTE. URL last. Retrieved 4 November 2009.
  54. ^ Independent.ie article on the Billy Meehan fictional murder
  55. ^ "Battered husband draws in fair city fans" Evening Herald. URL last. Retrieved 26 November 2010.
  56. ^ "[15]" Irish Independent. Retrieved 20 October 2009.
  57. ^ "The Wire star hopes to appear in Fair City". RTÉ Arts (Raidió Teilifís Éireann). 3 June 2009. Retrieved 3 June 2009. 
  58. ^ "List of IFTA Awards" RTÉ. URL last. Retrieved 30 March 2007.
  59. ^ Lawrence, John; O'Brien, Jason (7 March 2007). "Star actors in top-earning soap on €432 a day". Irish Independent (Independent News & Media). Retrieved 2 January 2009. 
  60. ^ Gittens, Geraldine (19 November 2011). "Half of soap stars from fair city have second jobs... just to make ends meet". Evening Herald (Independent News & Media). Retrieved 19 November 2011. 
  61. ^ Walshe, John (7 March 2007). "Schoolboy fight clubs 'copying' Fair City story line". Irish Independent (Independent News & Media). Retrieved 2 January 2009. 
  62. ^ Kelly, Fiach (17 March 2008). "Family feels 'betrayed' after son's sex abuser appears on Fair City". Irish Independent (Independent News & Media). Retrieved 2 January 2009. 
  63. ^ Independent.ie article on Down Syndrome controversy
  64. ^ Bray, Jennifer (30 January 2011). "RTÉ in row with 'Fair City' actors". Sunday Tribune. Retrieved 1 June 2011. 
  65. ^ Fair City brought to book by a man who knows it all – National News, Frontpage – Independent.ie
  66. ^ Fair City DVD – 20 Years in Carrigstown – DVD Sales

External links[edit]