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Niall Rafferty (née Matthew Brownlow) is a fictional character from the long-running Channel 4 soap opera Hollyoaks, played by Barry Sloane. The character first appeared on 7 December 2007 and marked his final appearance on 27 November 2008 in Hollyoaks spin-off, Hollyoaks Later. Actor Barry Sloane has been nominated for several awards for his portrayal of the character.

Character creation and development

Producer Bryan Kirkwood established Niall as, "a tall stranger who walks into the village - a guy called Niall. He sets himself up as a hair stylist in the salon and he's very ambiguous and mysterious. Viewers will be wondering 'Is he gay? Is he straight? Is he a drugsman?' " He would soon be revealed as, "the big storyline of 2008 — Myra [McQueens]'s secret and abandoned son is back to wreak revenge on each of the McQueens in turn."

As 2008 progressed, Niall was distracted by his love for Steph Dean, but continued to commit a series of violent and manipulative acts against the McQueen family. Barry Sloane said, "When I started, Bryan said to me 'you have to come and see me and say if you feel it's going too far'. We've tried as hard as we can to keep him within the bounds of reality. We know that it has to come to an end eventually. I don't know when that's going to be, but fingers crossed that we can ride the wave as long as possible."

Niall was also inadvertently responsible for the death of one of Hollyoaks most iconic characters, Max Cunningham. Sloane said the scenes were some of the "best material he's done," and that Niall was full of remorse. He also remarked on the irony of Niall attempting to damage the McQueens, but then killing Max completely by accident.

Character description

Niall Rafferty is the son of Myra McQueen and Martin Brownlow. He has six younger siblings; Jacqui, Mercedes, Tina, Carmel, John Paul and Michaela. He has a nephew; Max, a younger cousin; Theresa, a grandmother Marlena and an aunt; Kathleen. Niall was abandoned at birth and adopted by Jean Snow.

Following the conclusion to the character's major storyline in Hollyoaks, Niall returned in spin-off, Hollyoaks Later. On the show, Niall made his final appearance, with the character committing suicide by jumping off a cliff after being rejected by Steph Cunningham on 27 November 2008, almost a year after he first arrived in Hollyoaks.



Niall arrives as a new hairdresser at Evissa. He finds Louise Summers who hurts her ankle an tries to help her. Warren Fox assumes Niall is mugging her. Niall then punches Warren. Niall befriends the McQueens. Jacqui McQueen is sceptical over Niall. None of the McQueens realise that Niall is Myra's son whom she gave up aged 14. Niall claims he has two sisters and his mother died on Christmas Day. He is invited to the McQueens for Christmas. Niall steals a photograph of the family. Myra upsets him by saying she finds it nice being around her children. Niall returns to his flat and looks at the note Myra left with him as a baby. He then burns the picture of the McQueens

In an attempt to get closer to his mother, Niall gets Myra a job as a cleaner at Evissa. He encourages her to be strict with Michaela, who is playing truant. Michaela comes into Evissa high on marijuana. She confesses this to Niall, not realising Myra is in the room. Niall finds Michaela drunk and sends her to her bedroom, Myra returns home and he sends her up, knowing she will find her drunk. Myra has an argument and slaps Michaela. Michaela then decides to move out. The McQueens throw a party. Niall gets Michaela drunk. She goes to her room and falls asleep on the bed. Niall follows her and injects her with heroin. Niall pretends to discover Michaela and carries her out and gets her to hospital. Michaela awakens in hospital. Everyone assumes she is an addict. Michaela returns home but cannot live with her family who cannot trust her. She moves into Niall's flat. Niall eventually gets Michaela to move back home. Niall discovers Myra is committing benefit fraud and alerts the authorities. She then has to go to court. Niall finds out that Calvin Valentine accidentally proposed to Carmel. He then gets Louise to tell Carmel. Carmel breaks up with Calvin for a short time. He then tells Calvin that Carmel knew about Sasha's drug addiction and never told him. Niall meets Nana McQueen at The Dog. She reveals that she made Myra give up Niall as a baby, not realising Niall is the baby. Niall follows drunken Nana home and attacks her. She is not badly injured but cannot recall her attacker.

Niall makes a friend in Steph Dean. When she splits up with Max Cunningham, Niall comforts her. Niall begins to fall in love with her and kisses her. Steph then tells Niall she loves Max and does not have the same feelings for him. Max confronts Niall, who admits his feelings for Steph. Before Steph's wedding to Max, Niall tries to change her mind. Steph marries Max, which leaves Niall devastated. Niall sits in his car looking at a picture of him and Steph. He then speeds off, unknowingly towards Tom Cunningham. Max pushes Tom out of the way but gets run over himself. As Max dies, Niall feels guilty and feels more separated from Steph more than ever. Kieron Hobbs moves in with Niall. Niall kisses a still grieving Steph as Kieron and John Paul walk in after showering together. Niall and Steph agree to keep their relationship a secret. Niall learns Kieron is helping Myra to track her long-lost son. Niall decides to make Myra not trust Kieron so arranges for her to learn of John Paul and Kieron's relationship. Myra discovers their affair and disowns both of them. Niall saves Tina from being mugged by Fletch. He then overhears her on the phone to Jacqui saying she is thinking of putting her unborn baby up for adoption. Niall pushes her down the stairs, which leaves her unconscious. He claims that Fletch pushed her. Fletch then fleas the village. Tina has her baby and goes through an emergency hysterectomy. Due to the this, the surrogacy plans were stopped. This leaves Jacqui without the child she wished. John Paul and Kieron plan to leave, but decide to stay when they hear about Tina. John Paul goes to the hospital, meanwhile Niall convinces Kieron to leave on his own, for the sake of John Paul and the McQueens. Niall then tells John Paul that Kieron left under his own pretences. John Paul and Niall bond in his absence. Niall is annoyed when Kieron returns and returns in his relationship with John Paul. Kieron investigates Myra's son again and discovers Niall is her son. Kieron confronts Niall to give him the chance to tell Myra. Niall convinces Kieron to have a beer before seeing Myra. Niall drugs Kieron's beer. Kieron realises something is wrong and Niall admits everything he has done since arriving. Kieron realises the McQueens are in danger so attempts to get up. He collapses into Niall's arms and dies. Niall takes Kieron's phone and texts John Paul and places the pill container beside Kieron to make it look like suicide. Niall then leaves the flat as John Paul returns to find Kieron's body. Niall goes to see Steph as an alibi. Niall begins to enjoy his time with John Paul without Kieron. Niall is close to telling John Paul his identity when John Paul reveals he plans to leave with Craig Dean. Niall is annoyed and drugs John Paul's beer. Niall goes to the bathroom and returns. John Paul accidentally spills Niall's beer so swaps it with his. Niall returns and unknowingly drinks the drugged beer. When he discovers he is drinking the drugged drink, Niall makes John Paul leave the flat. However Niall does not share the same fate as Kieron.

Niall's life begins to go wrong. He is sacked from Evissa and Steph dumps him realising she is sleeping with the killer of the love of her life. Niall approaches Myra with Kieron's folder he used to track her son. He asks Myra if she wanted to find the baby and she tells him she does not. Niall's world comes crashing down. His sisters return home so he leaves wanting revenge. He kidnaps Michaela first and gets Michaela to write a note stating she is on a writing course. Myra thinks nothing of it. Niall snatches Carmel who has had a fight with Calvin. Calvin then leaves for Spain. Niall gets Carmel to write a note saying she is away on a spa break, the note written on another Post-It note like Michaela's. Niall kidnaps Mercedes. He forces her to write another note. Finally Niall abducts Tina. Niall takes Max McQueen to Myra's and leaves a note identical to the one Myra left with Niall and also to the notes the McQueen children apparently wrote. Myra begins to get suspicious when she reads the note, noticing the word-for-word symmetry with her own letter, and realising that all the girls had left notes on pink Post-Its. She takes the notes to the police but they are uninterested as the children have all explained their absences. Jacqui McQueen assumes her siblings have left have a surprise party for her birthday. Niall sends Jacqui a text using Carmel's phone. Niall finally grabs Jacqui. Jacqui tries to escape but Niall shows her a recording of her siblings tied up and crying. Niall takes her to an abandoned St. Eustace Church, where Myra abandoned Niall when he was a baby. Myra receives a text from Tina. It tells her to meet her at the church. Myra goes to the church and meets Niall who she then discovers is her child. Niall ties up Myra and puts her with his sisters. Niall then takes out John Paul who he somehow got back from Dublinmarker. Niall plays a game with Myra and asks her six questions. For every question she gets wrong, she is forced to choose a child to die. Myra ends up only being able to choose two children to survive. John Paul and Mercedes volunteer to die. Myra also chooses Jacqui and Carmel, reasoning that Michaela is the youngest and Tina is a mother. Niall sends Michaela and Tina away as he holds explosives which he plans to kill the rest of his family with. Jack and Darren Osborne burst in to save the McQueens. Niall realises his plans might be over so detonates the bomb. The church explodes and Niall and John Paul are nowhere to be found. Niall finds Myra trapped under concrete. Myra explains she would have accepted him if he had told her who he was. Niall regrets detonating the explosive. John Paul tries to get Niall away from Myra but she stops him. Realising she loves her son. Niall and John-Paul then both try to free Myra. A large statue of and angel collapses towards John Paul and Myra so Niall pushes then out of the way and appears to be crushed. The McQueens all exit the church as ambulances arrive. However Tina dies due to being crushed by rubble. As Tina's ambulance drives away, Niall's reflection appears in the window. Th McQueens believe Niall is dead. However the police tell them that Niall's body was never recovered and that he is still alive.

Niall arrives back in Hollyoaks and discovers Steph and Tom's location in Scotland where Craig Dean takes them for a break. Niall realises he has ruined any chance of being with his family so sets out to find Steph and make things up. Niall follows them to Scotland and hides himself in a barn not far from where Steph, Craig and Tom are staying, giving him a vantage point to spy on them. Craig goes out for the afternoon so Niall approaches the cottage and spies on Steph. Niall injures himself when he leaves the house. He then injures himself when he tries to escape the house. Steph and Craig take Tom to play football in the fields. Tom comes across the barn where Niall is staying. Niall prepares to make an appearance but discovers Craig is also there. He puts his plans on hold. Craig goes out that evening. Niall sneaks in to the cottage and convinces Tom that Craig sent him. Niall takes the youngster away from the cottage. The day after, Steph and Craig are distraught that Tom is missing. Niall contacts with the pair. He tells them if Steph meets with him then he will return Tom safely. Tom escapes and Niall is angry that he has been tricked by a child. He sets out to find Steph, and arrives back at the cottage where Tom has found Craig. Niall surprises the pair, ties Craig up and locks Tom in another room. Steph returns and is shocked to see Niall. Niall and Steph start to talk as he is desperate for her to love him. Steph goes along with his plans. Niall goes upstairs to talk to Tom about how he would feel if he and Steph became his parents and then move away to be a family. Tom tells him he wants to live with Steph and Mandy Richardson. Niall feels rejected and leaves Tom and Craig in the cottage as he takes Steph to the barn. He prepares a meal for them and they talk about Niall's behaviour and the hurt he caused. Niall tries to convince Steph that he wants to change. Steph claims she needs the toilet and Niall shows her where to go. Steph uses her phone to call the police. However she is cut off when Niall appears and crushes her phone. Back at the cottage, the owner, Pete arrives back to check on things and discovers Craig tied up. He frees him and they go and check on Tom. Craig asks Tom where Niall took him before but Tom is not sure. Niall ties up Steph and tells her that he feels betrayed. She escapes and knocks him out. Niall chases her and shouts for her. Craig hears Niall and follows him. Niall traps Steph on a cliff edge and she warns him not to come closer. Niall tries to take their lives as he is about to throw himself and Steph over the edge. Craig appears and tells Niall that Steph does not and never will love him and to let her go. Niall then beats Craig up and leaves him lying on the ground. Craig then tells Niall to look at scared Steph. Niall, finally realising he has no chance with her and that he is having a bad time with himself noticing what he has done such as the church explosion, max's death, killing Tina, pushes Craig into her arms, kisses her briefly and then rips off the necklace he got her and walks to the edge of the cliff. Steph helps Craig up and hears Niall say goodbye. She turns as he falls back the way over the cliff onto a pile of rocks below.

Back in Hollyoaks, Calvin Valentine reports the death of Niall to the rest of the McQueen family. They agree not to mourn his death. Myra wishes she could have done more for him. Calvin states that Scottish police found Niall's body at the base of the cliff in the early hours of the morning, and that he presumably drowned. This suggests that Steph and Craig did not contact the police following Niall's suicide.


At the 2008 National Television Awards, Barry Sloane was nominated for the award of 'Most Popular Newcomer' along with three characters from other soaps; Sloane did not win the award for his role as Niall. He was also nominated in the British Soap Awards for 'Sexiest Male' in 2009 and 'Villain of the Year' in 2008 and 2009. In 2009 the Church Explosion received a nomination for 'Most Spectacular Scene'.


  1. " Interview — Bryan Kirkwood, 'Hollyoaks' Producer", Digital Spy. URL last accessed 2008-07-17
  2. " Interview — Barry Sloane (Niall Rafferty, 'Hollyoaks')", Digital Spy. URL last accessed 2008-07-17

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