‘Being from Derry is my super power’ – Lisa McGee
Derry Girls creator, Lisa McGee described becoming the first woman to receive the Freedom of the City and District in her home town of Derry as ‘surreal’.
The acclaimed writer received the city and district’s highest accolade at the Guildhall in front of family, friends, husband Tobias and sons Joseph and Sean.
Speaking of her ‘immense pride’ to be from Derry, Lisa said:
“As a writer working in a television industry that’s notoriously tough to break into and to survive in, being from Derry has always felt like my superpower. It’s a city steeped in story and story tellers and I always thought I grew up with 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 soaring soundtrack of Phil Coulter or is it the fact that when you go into any restaurant here you’ll be asked what wee side you want with your wee side – I think it’s all of those things.
“It’s been my biggest pleasure to be able to write Derry Girls, to be able to showcase our amazing sense of humour, our warmth, our humanity and I’m going to continue writing about the place I come from, the place I love.”
Councillors from all parties were glowing in their praise and congratulations for Lisa with Mayor, councillor Sandra Duffy saying:
“I grew up in the 90s, I didn’t go to the same school as you but the school I went to had a few Sister Michaels. Every episode and every song that was played brought back so many memories, so thank you for the memories.”
She added: “Born and reared in Derry, Lisa you are extremely proud of your Derry roots and you have never forgotten your home city. We are all so proud of you and the way you have depicted Derry in such a positive and realistic way.
“You have showcased all that is good about our city, its difficult past and how the people have come through it. You have successfully captured the city and its people, our unique humour, warmth and resilience and shared it with a global audience.”
SDLP councillor Martin Reilly who proposed Lisa be conferred with the Freedom of the City and District described it as an ‘historic’ occasion.
“Derry Girls was the most watched series in Northern Ireland since modern records began in 2002 with Lisa injecting humour and poignancy as she retold her own experiences of living and studying in this city,” he said.
“The final episodes of the Derry Girls series are a masterpiece in explaining the difficult choices people had to make in this city, right across the wider Ireland and how its people have transitioned from day to day conflict towards a more peaceful future.
“As the first female to receive the Freedom of the City this is a truly historic and special occasion for us here this afternoon.”
UUP Alderman Ryan McCready spoke of his delight to be ‘in the presence of such greatness’, commenting:
“Whether you are from Derry, Londonderry or Legenderry everyone has seen Derry Girls and they all love it. Lisa has captured our history but captured us with such great humour.”
Agreeing, Alliance Rachael Ferguson added:
“You showed this city and district for its resilience, the dark humour and the strong matriarchal society we have here.
“It was surprising when we found out that no woman had received the Freedom of the City until now and it’s fitting that someone that writes with such strong female leads that you should be the first woman to receive it.”
Sinn Féin councillor Emma McGinley echoed the sentiments saying:
“You demonstrate to all Derry girls that you can do whatever they want, be who they want to be and that nothing stands in the way of a Derry girl because after all being a Derry girl is a state of mind."
People Before Profit councillor Maeve O’Neill added:
“You write with the pride of being a Derry girl and we all stand taller with that pride ourselves and wear that Derry girl badge with real honour anywhere we go.”
Concluding, Mayor, councillor Sandra Duffy said:
“It makes me so proud as female Mayor am in this position to confer the Freedom of the City and District on the first woman. It has been a great honour.”