Lisa McGee: Derry Girls writer to be awarded freedom of city

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Writer Lisa McGee in front of a Derry Girls mural in Derry, ahead of the premiere for the third series of Channel 4"s Derry Girls at the Omniplex Cinema in LondonderryImage source, PA/Liam McBurney
Image caption,
Creator Lisa McGee based the show Derry Girls on her experiences growing up in the city

Derry City and Strabane District Council has voted unanimously to award Derry Girls creator Lisa McGee the freedom of the city.

SDLP councillor Martin Reilly put forward the proposal in recognition of the "global positive impact" Ms McGee's work has had on the city and district.

Ms McGee will be the first woman to receive the city's highest honour.

Reacting to the news, Ms McGee posted on social media saying that she was "stunned, shocked and very honoured".

Derry Girls, which first aired on Channel 4 in 2018, follows four teenage girls - and "a wee English fella" - growing up in Londonderry in Northern Ireland during the 1990s.

It follows the group as they navigate the ups and downs of teenage life, all in the shadow of the final years of The Troubles.

Derry Girls has been a massive success for Channel 4, winning Royal Television Society Awards, Irish Film and Television Awards and being nominated for BAFTAs.

The final episode aired on Wednesday 18 May after three series.

Notable recipients of the freedom of the city include:

Image source, PAcemaker
Image caption,
John Hume, pictured on the walls of his home city Derry, helped create the climate that brought an end to Northern Ireland's Troubles
  • Nobel Peace Prize winner and former SDLP leader John Hume
  • Former UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill
  • Composer, musician and songwriter Phil Coulter
  • Former Catholic and Church of Ireland bishops, Edward Daly and James Mehaffey
  • Derry City's treble-winning manager Jim McLaughlin
  • Ultra-endurance athlete Danny Quigley

'Broken the mould'

Speaking to BBC Radio Foyle on Friday, councillor Martin Reilly said he is delighted the motion was passed unanimously.

"It recognises the value of Lisa's work and the contribution it has made to the arts and the wider impact it has had on tourism for the city.

"The number of people who now visit Derry specifically to see where Derry Girls was filmed and to get their picture taken in front of the Derry Girls mural is amazing."

Councillor Reilly said that Ms McGee will be making history when she receives the highest civic honour that the council can bestow.

"Lisa will be the first women to receive the award and that is something that council definitely needed to put right because all the previous recipients were male.

"All of the previous recipients have been worthy nominees, but it was right that we also made sure that there was a female on that list.

"Derry Girls has broken the mould and Lisa has as well," he said.

Image source, Channel 4
Image caption,
Derry Girls centres on teenager Erin Quinn (centre) and her friends growing up in the city

Marie-Louise Muir, from The Talking Derry Girls podcast, has said "there is a sense of pride and joy" about being from this city which Lisa has encapsulated so beautifully with Derry Girls.

"I am a bit shocked that Lisa will be the first woman to be awarded the freedom of the city.

"Sadly we are still talking about gender, while I completely agree that Lisa does deserve it, it is a crying shame that women haven't been recognised up until now.

"Especially with something like Derry Girls, which is a celebration of the strong matriarchy and the strong women of this city.

"There is a huge discussion to be had here, and that is not to take away from the absolute joy of Lisa McGee getting it".

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Ms McGee's other notable work includes the television series Raw, which she created for Irish broadcaster RTÉ; the Channel 4 sitcom London Irish and The Deceived for Channel 5.

A date will now be set to convene a dedicated special meeting of the council to confer the honour upon Ms McGee.