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Shock as first soap suicide hits screens.

Byline: JIM GALLAGHER

IRELAND'S top telly show is set to shock viewers across the nation this week - with the terrifying suicide of one of its star.

On Wednesday night hundreds of thousands of viewers will watch character Marty Halpin plunge to his death from a bridge.

It's the first clear suicide to be featured on any soap opera in Ireland OR Britain.

And last night the debate was raging over whether telly bosses' worst fears could come be realised - and someone takes their own life in a copycat fashion.

Last night Fair City bosses defended their controversial decision to show the death drama.

British soaps have traditionally not shown people taking their own lives in case it leads unbalanced people to do the same thing.

Last month Coronation Street came close when it showed serial killer Richard Hillman driving his van into a canal in an attempt to kill his family. He perished but they survived.

Now Fair City is following suit with its own dramatic death scenes.

The shocking storyline began on Thursday night during a one hour special when Marty - played by actor Paul Lee - murdered his wife Tess after discovering she had been secretly sterilised.

Now he is on the run with young son Mark.

An insider reveled last night: "His aim is to jump off the bridge with his son - but in the end he lets the boy go.

"His grown-up son Damien begs him to let Mark go and eventually he does before jumping on his own."

A spokeswoman for the show said: "It is the first suicide we have shown but we do not fear any copycat actions.

"Marty does it because he is so desperate - and his situation would not be one viewers would be in. He has killed his wife and is on the run.

"He is in a dreadful situation and he sees this as his only way out."

AWARE, an organisation which runs a 24-hour helpline for depressed people and gives counselling to families of suicide victims, said it would be watching the show with great interest.

"Fair City have not contacted us and we didn't know this story was coming up," said a spokeswoman.

"It all depends now how they cover the aftermath. If they show the counselling that is available it might be a good thing.

"But we can't really comment until we see what happens."

She said TG4 soap Ros na Run had recently contacted them as they were about to launch a storyline about depression.

"They said they wanted to give out one of our leaflets in the show and that is obviously very helpful.

"Suicide does need media coverage but it all depends how it is done.

"There are images that sometimes encourages copycat suicides. People who commit suicide are often unwell and they feel it is their only option. "It is not necessarily a selfish act but a desperate one.

"We try to get that message across to people. Now we will be watching to see how Fair City deals with the aftermath."

CAPTION(S):

HORROR: Marty crumbles under pressure; CATALYST: Marty strangles Tess and is forced to go on the run after her murder
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Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Apr 6, 2003
Words:531
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