Derry Girls creator Lisa McGee awarded the Freedom of Derry

Attending with her family, the screenwriter said it was ‘surreal’ to receive the council’s highest accolade
Derry Girls creator Lisa McGee awarded the Freedom of Derry

Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA

Derry Girls creator Lisa McGee has been awarded the Freedom of Derry, making her the first woman to be given the award.

The screenwriter, who has won international praise for the hit programme Derry Girls, attended a short ceremony with her parents, her husband and her two sons.

Ms McGee said receiving the award was “surreal”, and that she was hugely proud to be from the city.

“This is really surreal. I still can’t believe it,” she said after receiving the award.

“This is just such a privilege and honour.

“I’m immensely proud to be from Derry. As a writer working in television, an industry that’s notoriously tough to break into and to survive in, being from Derry has always felt like my superpower.

Filming in Ulster
Derry Girls (left to right): Orla (Louise Harland), Clare (Nicola Coughlan), Erin (Saoirse-Monica Jackson), James (Dylan Llewellyn) and Michelle (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell) (Hat Trick/Channel 4/PA)

“It’s just steeped in story and full of storytellers. I always thought it was an unfair advantage.

“Since the success of Derry Girls, many people have asked me to explain that advantage more specifically, is it the legacy of John Hume’s political genius?

“Is it the literary flair of Seamus Heaney or the soundtrack of Phil Coulter?

“Or is it the fact that when you go into any restaurant here, you’ll be asked ‘What wee side do you want with your wee side?’ And I think it’s all of those things.

“It’s just been my greatest privilege to be able to write Derry Girls, to be able to showcase our amazing sense of humour and warmth and humanity.

“And I’m going to continue writing about the place I come from, the place I love.”

Councillors at the Derry City and Strabane District Council congratulated Ms McGee for representing their city and highlighting the importance of the Good Friday Agreement.

SDLP councillor Martin Reilly, who proposed the award, said that the TV show resonated with people.

“Right from the first episode of the first series, the adventures of the Derry Girls school teenagers and their experiences growing up against the background of Troubles moved on through the decades towards the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

“Through her work, people have seen the warmth and the charm of our city, the sense of friendship, the sense of families pulling together and dealing with adversity, all delivered through various strong female viewpoints – from the schoolgirls, the mothers, the aunts, and of course, as Martin Scorsese pointed out last week, the nuns as well.”

Renowned Oscar-winning director Scorsese revealed last week that he is currently watching Derry Girls.

Mr Reilly added: “The fact that she’s the first female to receive the freedom of the city award is a truly historic and special occasion for us here.”

Ms McGee joins names such John Hume, Phil Coulter and Winston Churchill in being conferred with the council’s highest accolade.

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