Belfast Telegraph

I'm glad Derry Girls sheds positive light on Northern Ireland, says Sister Michael actress

Siobhan McSweeney as Sister Michael on Derry Girls
Siobhan McSweeney as Sister Michael on Derry Girls

By Aoife Kelly

Derry Girls star Siobhan McSweeney says she feels "gratified" that the show is shining a positive spotlight on Northern Ireland.

The Cork actress plays the hilariously acerbic headmistress Sister Michael in the hit comedy, which is enjoying a hugely successful second season on Channel 4.

Set in the 1990s, it explores the trials and tribulations of four female friends as they negotiate friendship, family life, and school against the backdrop of The Troubles. "I feel really gratified it's on at a time when, in general, the awareness of Northern Ireland is almost at an all-time low," she said.

"It serves not only to entertain but to shed a human, intelligent, and compassionate light on the north and I think a lot of that is missing at the moment in discourse about the north of Ireland, about Europe in general, Ireland and the UK.

"We need that human, and also female, perspective on the north and I hope that with all the rubbish that's happening that it sheds a human eye on it."

Created and written by Lisa McGee, the first series debuted to 1.6m viewers (rising to 2.5m consolidated) and was the biggest comedy launch in Northern Ireland since viewership records began in 2002. Given its success, Siobhan admits the cast was naturally "a bit nervous" ahead of the current season.

"It's that second album fear you have with a second series, but when we got the scripts we could see they were as good, if not better, than the first," she added. Broadcast across the UK and Ireland on Channel 4, Derry Girls has also garnered an appreciative audience in the US following the arrival of the first series on Netflix US.

Siobhan said: "It's literally global and on social media there are people contacting me from all over the world who have seen the show.

"What's lovely about it is that those universal themes that Lisa has written about really speak to everybody around the world."

Reports of viewers in the US requiring subtitles to understand the Derry accent are, she says, "bulls***".

"Everyone can understand it. Get over yourself!" she said.

"There's this thing like the north is a strange land where everybody needs an interpreter to go in there. They're just normal people, in extraordinary times. They're very normal people and I can see the ordinariness and universality speaks to everybody."

Siobhan's character Sister Michael's one-liners and famous eye roll have seen her emerge as something of a social media star with countless memes and gifs surfacing after every episode.

"It's extraordinary, and how quickly they appear," she said.

"People are so funny. Even before an episode is over there are three or four out there. I can barely look at them with the amount of chins!"

Derry Girls continues on Channel 4 tonight at 9.15pm

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