When the first series of Lisa McGee’s Derry Girls ended with a quite literally explosive bomb blast, it was difficult NOT to feel a lump form in your throat.
And as the credits rolled on season two’s penultimate episode many viewers found themselves in tears once again.
The Cranberries’ Zombie rang out as Ma Mary, Gerry, Aunt Sarah and Grandpa Joe joined their friends and neighbours on the streets of the city to celebrate a halt in the violence that cast a shadow over their daily lives.
Sr Michael’s solitary, solemn celebration of the ceasefire, called by the Provisional IRA in 1994, hit hard.
“Peace was hard won and remains a delicate precious thing,” actress Siobhan McSweeney tweeted. Her co-star, Nicola Coughlan, said she hoped the episode would “remind people in Westminster how hard people fought for peace in Northern Ireland and how they deserve so much more than being a pawn in their Brexit.”
It’s rare to find a comedy that’s both hilarious and educational, leaving its audience in hysterics while delivering a vital history lesson. But Derry Girls has been doing just that since day one.
From Aunt Sarah’s episode one upset about the bomb on the bridge that was jeopardising her sun-bed appointment to Uncle Colm’s run-in with a couple of brutes who wanted ‘thon van’, the 12th of July Orange March the gang unwittingly found themselves in the middle of to the ‘wee provo’ who hid himself in the boot of the car, we’ve been delivered social history lessons time and time again.
I grew up south of the border in the early 1990s and I’ve learned more about life in Northern Ireland from Lisa McGee’s comedy than I ever did at school.
The only stories we were told were the ones we saw on the news. They painted pictures of violence, sectarianism, instability and eventually, a fragile peace. The idea that there were girls and boys like me, going about their everyday lives, was absolutely alien to me. Northern Ireland was the war zone I saw on the news, the place where my mum had run a marathon route lined by soldiers with guns.
I was only nine years old when the Good Friday Agreement was signed, but even I knew back then that it was a significant moment in the country’s history.
21 years later, with Brexit dominating the discourse and the concept of the return of a ‘Hard Border’ being carelessly thrown about by people in power, I can’t begin to explain just how important it is for McGee’s very human story of her city to be both told and heeded.