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Traumatic role Fair City star says domestic abuse storyline will prepare her for real life career

As Phoebe she faces the traumatic role of having a manipulative dad and a mum with OCD but real life is different

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Claire Gavin who plays Phoebe in Fair City

Claire Gavin who plays Phoebe in Fair City

Claire Gavin who plays Phoebe in Fair City

Claire Gavin has been at the centre of several ­emotionally challenging roles in Fair City - and now she reveals she's studying to be a social worker in real life.

The 20-year-old from Mornington, Co Meath, was recently involved in the soap's gripping court case in which her character Phoebe's manipulative gay dad, Will, was controversially acquitted of assaulting his ­partner, Christiano.

Phoebe had believed Will's lies that he was innocent and was unaware of his shocking domestic abuse behind closed doors - but has since discovered his lies.

"I'm studying social work in ­Trinity College and being involved in these storylines is definitely helpful because I'll be working with people who might have similar situations at home," Claire tells the Sunday World.

"It gives you a feeling for, and an idea of, what it's like for people who are living with domestic abuse.

"I'm in the life of Phoebe at the moment, the things that are going on with her dad and the fact that he's such a manipulative person, and it kind of gets me to feel what it's like because these are real people's lives out there.

"I think it helps me a lot for my social work studies and gives me that extra bit of empathy and ­understanding because I'm ­really trying to research how people have to deal with toxic family situations.

"I've been learning what it feels like to be constantly manipulated by your father or having to deal with a mental illness like my screen mother Mairead, who had OCD. It has helped to get me into the lives of real family situations."

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Damien and Cris are accosted by Phoebe in a dramatic scene from Fair City.

Damien and Cris are accosted by Phoebe in a dramatic scene from Fair City.

Damien and Cris are accosted by Phoebe in a dramatic scene from Fair City.

Claire, who is also working on placement in a drugs treatment centre, says her own background has been a blissfully happy one. Her father, Richard, is GP in Drogheda, while mum, Patricia, is a counsellor.

"My life is so different to Phoebe's," Claire says. "I have a really good relationship with my mam and dad. I think Mairead and Phoebe have a really close-knit relationship, and me and my mam would have a similar relationship. Mairead is a fairly good mother and Will, despite everything, can be a really good father, but he just doesn't know how to love other people

"But thank God I don't have that with my family. There has been nothing traumatic in my life. I have two older brothers, Andrew and Niall, so I guess that's different as well because Phoebe is an only child."

Are her brothers proud of their little sister's success in Fair City? "Yeah, they're proud of me," Claire says. "It's kind of one of those things where nobody really knows how to react sometimes. I think when I first got it (a role in Fair City) they didn't really believe it. They didn't really know what Fair City was all about, and they didn't really know what to say."

Then she laughs: "They're not exactly brothers who would lift me up. They like to slag me and tear me down. I think it would be hard for them to say congratulations."

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Claire was in sixth year Leaving Cert when she first landed the role of Phoebe in Fair City. "The only acting I had done up to that was at the Little Juke Theatre in Drogheda from the age of eight to just around 12 going on 13. I quit then because I was a teenager and too cool for everything," she laughs.

"And then I got Fair City the year I was doing the Leaving, which was a time when I had so much going on. I moved up to Dublin because I did Leaving Cert grinds at Ashfield ­College in Dundrum, and I went to live with my uncle.

"I always look back at my time when I was in sixth year and on Fair City and I go, 'Oh God, I must have been a terrible actor.' At the time, I was thinking about the Leaving Cert, I was thinking about trying to make new friends in a new school and I was living away from home, so my mind was in so many places.

"There was a point during the Leaving Cert mocks where I was going in to Fair City and trying to study for the mocks in my dressing room while I waited to do my scenes. It was definitely too much."

As for the future, Claire plans to move to London when she completes her degree.

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Claire’s London plans

Claire’s London plans

Claire’s London plans

"The plan is to do social work and acting over there," she adds. "I love Fair City, but I want to reach for other things and challenge myself in different roles."

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