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Derry Girls star Siobhan McSweeney: Fire has left me with anxiety

The Irish actress is living at a friend’s house and has lost many of her possessions.


Siobhan McSweeney (Matt Crossick/PA)

Siobhan McSweeney (Matt Crossick/PA)

Siobhan McSweeney (Matt Crossick/PA)

Derry Girls star Siobhan McSweeney says she has been left with an “aftermath of anxiety” after a devastating fire at her home.

The actress, who plays no-nonsense nun Sister Michael on the hit sitcom, has been living out of a suitcase since the blaze four months ago.

She wants people to ditch cube-shaped block adaptors after inspectors said it caused the fire, which began next to her bed.

If the Irish actress had been asleep, instead of out at the theatre, the consequences could have been even worse.

McSweeney, who is now living at a friend’s house and lost many of her possessions in the blaze, said she had been left “with an anxiety that something can go wrong.

“It takes me ages to leave the house, wherever I am,” she told the PA news agency.

“I have to go around plugging out everything and triple checking everything…

“For a long time afterwards I would wake up in the middle of the night and go round and unplug stuff.

“That was quite annoying for my friends, to be unplugging the television and resetting all their devices.

Damage to Siobhan McSweeney’s flat (Electrical Safety First)

“Thankfully I have the best friends in the world who put up with my little neurosis.”

She said the anxiety “comes in waves".

“Alongside feeling incredibly lucky there is a legacy of panic,” she said.

“And if I hadn’t been at that show there’s no doubt, I have been told, that this would have been a very different story.

“It would have been the toxic fumes from the smouldering of the mattress….that would have got to me first.”

A block adaptor (Electrical Safety First)

McSweeney was alerted to the blaze, in November, when she got a call from her neighbour saying her flat, in London, was on fire.

“When I got the call everything blacked out. I can’t remember (anything),” she said.

“All I remember is that taxi journey home and feeling so worried about what was happening.

“I have flats above me and below me and elderly neighbours and I was just deeply worried that they were safe,” she said.

She said she had at first been “utterly convinced” she was responsible.

“That’s the first place you go to – that you’ve done it. It’s your worst possible nightmare, the idea that you’d put other people in danger.

“I thought it was something I’d done, a candle, or the oven. I had no idea that they were unsafe (the block adaptor). I had many in the flat.

“Growing up, we used those for Christmas lights, for the trees and everything.

“It was a shock to me when the fire inspector told me it wasn’t my fault. That was such a relief.”

The fire service concluded the adaptor had fallen slightly out of its socket and created a spark which set fire to her bed.

“If people get rid of them that will be a bonus to a dreadful thing that has happened,” McSweeney said.

“I’m just urging people to not take the chance. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t happen that often. It has happened.”

Derry Girls
The Derry Girls cast (Ian West/PA)

She said: “I’d left my really cosy, warm familiar home and I came back to a blackened, smelly, dark destroyed shell of a flat.

“I haven’t been able to go back into the property yet so I’ve been living out of a suitcase since then.

“I managed to get my father’s death certificate and a picture of my mother.”

But she said: “This could have been a much darker story,” adding that: “I consider myself incredibly lucky…. When the alternative is so in your face, clothes and belongings…” they are “just stuff”.

McSweeney is preparing to return to her role as Sister Michael in a third series of Channel 4 show Derry Girls later this year.

“They have been incredibly supportive,” she said of her co-stars. “They’ve offered me beds and shoulders to cry on. We’re a very close cast and I’d be lost without them.”

She has appeared in a new video warning of the dangers of the block adaptor, which Electrical Safety First says many people have in their homes.

The charity said the product “puts undue strain on the wall socket and often do not come with a fuse”.

Multiway “bar” extension leads are the safer option, the charity said, but should not be overloaded.

More information is available at www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk.