Fairley was born in 1964 in Coleraine, Northern Ireland, U.K., and grew up in nearby Ballycastle, where her parents Theresa and Brian Fairley operated a local pub. She attended a Catholic grammar school, and as a teenager, took up an extracurricular involvement with the Ulster Youth Theatre, where she discovered her love of the stage. Upon graduation, she moved to Belfast where she honed her skills with the repertory company Fringe Benefits, alongside up-and-coming actor and UYT veteran, Conleth Hill. In the mid-1980s, she moved to Manchester, where she studied at Manchester Polytechnic (later Manchester Metropolitan University). Her tutor there recommended her for a part in a play by Irish ...
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