Tears, affairs and hard work as ‘Fair City’ hits 25

After 3,600 episodes together, the soap’s cast and crew say they remain like family

There have been tears, affairs, backstabbing and even murder among the Fair City characters over the past 25 years. Off screen, however, the cast have always remained "like family" .

Ireland’s longest-running soap’s first episode hit our screens on September 18th, 1989. On the day of its birthday, everyone remained as busy as ever on the set. Crew members moved from scene to scene with equipment, folders and papers in their hands, and pens in their hair. Actors practised lines in between takes and extras read as they waited to be called.

The atmosphere was friendly and chatty, and only went silent when a scene was in progress.

Director David Whelan watched the action on two screens in a large white van parked behind the cameras.

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Tony Tormey, who plays Paul Brennan, a businessman who struggles to resist any opportunity to be unfaithful, said he remembered filming the first episode when he was 24.

“I was so nervous because I’d never done anything like it before,” he said. “I would never have believed I’d be here talking about it 25 years later.”

Tormey said he was enjoying his character’s current storyline, in which Paul has the “table turned on him” by his wife, Niamh, who has left him for a younger man.

Original cast members

As one of only two original cast members still in the show, he said he felt a great sense of achievement looking back.

Tom Jordan, whose character Charlie Kelly is a retired antique dealer and chairman of Carrigstown Community Centre, said he clearly remembered filming the first scene of the first episode, but never expected the show to last 25 years. "There had never been anything like it at the time. It's a very good feeling to have been part of it."

Martina Stanley, who plays Dolores Molloy, a shop worker who has suffered a huge amount of tragedy, said she joined the soap after the birth of her fourth child 21 years ago. One of her more difficult storylines, she added, was when her character's baby, Jessica died. "It was very challenging."

Stanley said the cast and crew were like “family” to each other. “I never expected to be here so long. I’ve been very fortunate,” she said.

Fair City has never been afraid to tackle controversial topics, bringing us Ireland's first on-screen gay kiss, a priest falling in love with a woman, abortion, domestic abuse and drug storylines. Critics have been hard on the RTÉ show, but it has endured, regularly attracting almost half a million viewers through more than 3,600 episodes.

Brigie de Courcy, executive producer of the show, put its success down to storylines that examined family and community life in Ireland. "Everybody has an opinion. We're proud of what we're doing and people have responded . . . I'm extremely optimistic about the future."

Rachel Flaherty

Rachel Flaherty

Rachel Flaherty is an Irish Times journalist