| 12.1°C Belfast

Derry Girls’ Siobhan McSweeney ‘heartbroken’ that Good Friday Agreement is ‘in danger of being attacked through ignorance’


Siobhán McSweeney, who played Sister Michael in Derry Girls.

Siobhán McSweeney, who played Sister Michael in Derry Girls.

Siobhán McSweeney, who played Sister Michael in Derry Girls.

Siobhán McSweeney, who plays the sassy Sister Michael in Derry Girls, has revealed that the Good Friday Agreement’s precarious future ‘breaks her heart’.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4, the Cork-born actress also said the lack of education about Northern Ireland and the Troubles in English schools is an “absolute disgrace”. 

On Thursday morning – the day after Derry Girls’ 45-minute finale special aired – she told the Today programme that she had woken up to “no word of a lie, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of messages, and at least three quarters of them are ‘Derry Girls has taught me more about the history of Northern Ireland and Britain than anything that I have been taught in school’.

“I think if you put aside the absolute disgrace it is that there’s such a gap in the educational system here that they have to look to a comedy to find out about Northern Irish politics that still have an effect today, I think it shows how good the medium of comedy can be to spread a message,” she continued. 

Ms McSweeney added that the timing of Wednesday night’s episode “could not be more apt”, given that it showed the characters of the hit Channel 4 sitcom voting on the 1998 Good Friday Agreement referendum. 

Daily Headlines & Evening Telegraph Newsletter

Receive today's headlines directly to your inbox every morning and evening, with our free daily newsletter.

This field is required

"I’m going to be very inarticulate about this because I feel quite emotional about what was meant to be the ending of a sitcom and is instead, what it shows is how the past is not the past, it’s always with us,” said the 42-year-old, who explored NI extensively during her More 4 travel series, Exploring Northern Ireland, which aired last summer. 

“The Good Friday Agreement was hard won and hard fought for, and the people of Northern Ireland voted for it, and now it’s in danger of being attacked through ignorance.

“Yet again it goes back to the idea that a sitcom is teaching the people of this country about the history of Northern Ireland and that’s not how it should be.”

Derry Girls, laughs, nostalgia, and a roaring success for Northern Ireland

Listen on Apple Podcasts Listen on Spotify

She added: “I feel it is incredibly poignant that we watch [the Derry Girls characters] head off at the end full of tentative hope for peace, for reconciliation, for the young people and what their future is, and we cut to now and that’s in danger and it breaks my heart.”

Irish minister for rural affairs, Heather Humphreys even quoted Derry Girls character Erin Quinn at the latest event in the Government’s Shared Island Dialogue series that promotes north-south relations.

In the final episode, the character, played by Derry’s own Saoirse Monica-Jackson said: “No matter how scary it is, we have to move on and we have to grow up because things, well, they might just change for the better. So we have to be brave. And if our dreams get broken along the way, we have to make new ones from the pieces.”

Referring to Northern Ireland's current political stalement, Ms Humphreys concluded her speech by saying: “I think the parties at Stormont, the Irish Government, everybody here today and everybody who believes in that truly shared island would do well to keep those words in mind.”

On Saturday, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said she discussed the UK’s “cast-iron commitment” to the Good Friday Agreement during a meeting with US politicians.

It comes amid heightened tensions over the Northern Ireland Protocol, which unionists and loyalists strongly oppose.

The visit from the delegation followed a warning from US house speaker Nancy Pelosi that congress will not support a free trade agreement with the UK if the Government persists with “deeply concerning” plans to “unilaterally discard” the post-Brexit Protocol. 

Top Democrat Richard Neal, the head of the powerful ways and means committee in the US house of representatives, also spoke with International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer on Saturday.

A spokesman for Mr Starmer said his meeting featured talks on the need to protect the Good Friday Agreement by ensuring a working NI Protocol. 

In a strongly-worded intervention on Thursday, Ms Pelosi urged the UK and the EU to continue negotiations on the post-Brexit trade arrangements to uphold peace in the region.

The latest controversy has been sparked by Ms Truss’s announcement last Tuesday that the UK intends to legislate to override parts of the Protocol.

The Foreign Secretary told the Commons the move is needed to reduce “unnecessary bureaucracy” and to protect the Good Friday Agreement, arguing that the EU’s proposals “would go backward from the situation we have today”.

The ongoing row over the treaty has created an impasse in efforts to form a functioning Northern Ireland, with the DUP refusing to join the Assembly unless its concerns over the situation are addressed.

Top Videos