'A uniquely talented actor' – shock and sadness as Fair City star Karl Shiels dies suddenly at 47

Tributes have been paid to Fair City actor and “force of nature” Karl Shiels after he died suddenly at the age of 47.

Shiels joined the soap in 2014, playing the part of Robbie Quinn.

The actor is believed to have died of natural causes and is survived by his partner Laura and his two daughters.

His death came as a shock to “stunned and heartbroken” cast-mates.

“We are absolutely devastated and he will be so greatly missed by the entire cast and crew,” said Brigie de Courcy, the RTE soap’s executive producer.

“Karl was extraordinary. He was a force of nature…he came in [to Fair City] roaring. He was a wonderful, wonderful actor.”

She added that he brought warmth, talent and humour to Carrigstown.

Before moving into acting, Shiels was an electrician. He switched careers in the early 90s when he studied at the Gaiety School of Acting.

Aside from his role on Fair City, Shiels was an acclaimed theatre and film actor with scores of credits to his name.

He regularly appeared in leading roles on Irish and UK stages, including the Abbey, the Gate, and the Royal Court in London.

He appeared in TV series and films such as Peaky Blinders, Batman Begins, Veronica Guerin, Intermission, The Clinic, and Capital Letters, for which he was nominated for the Best Actor Ifta in 2004.


Shiels was also the artistic director and a founding member of the Theatre Upstairs, which sat above Lanigan’s Bar on Dublin’s Eden Quay.

Yesterday, his agent Lisa Richards spoke of the devastating loss.

“Karl was a uniquely talented individual, simultaneously intense, light-hearted, funny, sharp-witted, outspoken and intensely powerful as an actor, director and artistic director,” she said.

She added that Shiels was “our friend, a loving father to his two girls, a man loved by so many who knew him and worked with him, and he will be deeply mourned by all who did”.

Nyree Yergainharsian, who plays Melanie Ryan in Fair City, said he will be sorely missed.

“He was not only a great actor and colleague, but a driving force in the Irish theatre world,” she told the Herald.

Oscar-nominated director Lenny Abrahamson paid his on tribute, writing online: “Terrible news about Karl Shiels. I had the pleasure of working with him on ‘Prosperity’ and he was charming and brilliant. He will be hugely missed.”

Actors who worked alongside Shiels took to Twitter to express their grief. Actor and comedian Tom Moran, currently starring in Coppers: The Musical, shared a touching message in memory of his “mentor”.

“In absolute shock to hear that Karl Shiels has passed away,” he said. “Karl was a mentor, supporter, critic and friend and, when you made him laugh, you knew you were really onto something. He had a spirit that shone, onstage and onscreen. Irish theatre will be forever in his debt.”

Eric Lalor, known for his role as Cathal Dillon in Fair City and as a stand-up comedian, also remembered his “great friend”.

“Absolutely stunned and heartbroken to hear of the death of Karl Shiels. A hugely gifted actor and a really great friend, I will miss him so much,” he said. “Thinking of his gorgeous family, may he Rest In Peace.”


Another Carrigstown co-star, Dave Kelly, shared his shock at the sudden passing of Shiels.

“Heartbroken at the news. I’ll miss you trying to make me laugh before a take,” he said.

“You brought great talent and life to the set everyday. For all them little bits of wisdom you shared, thank you.”

The Druid Theatre group said Karl was a “champion of Irish theatre” and “we are honoured to have worked with Karl. Our thoughts today are with his family”.

The Abbey Theatre paid special tribute to Karl in the theatre last night.

Meanwhile, Dublin Oldschool star and Tallaght playwright Stephen Jones was another colleague who expressed his sadness.

He had lived with Sheils for several years and said the actor had pushed him in his career.

“Words can’t express how heartbroken I am. Karl did so much for me. He inspired me, encouraged me, pushed me and championed me,” he said.

“We were housemates for a number of years, we were work colleagues and we were friends. He was a great man. I love you, Karl.”

Comedian Deirdre O’Kane said the news was “just horrendous” on social media.

“He was so loved by absolutely everyone,” she added.

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