Northern Ireland

Derry Girls wins prestigious literary prize promoting peace in Ireland

Final episode of sitcom named winner of the Christopher Ewart-Biggs Literary Prize

Lisa McGee in front of a Derry Girls mural in Derry
Derry Girls Derry Girls creator Lisa McGee. (PA)

Derry Girls has won a major literary prize aimed at celebrating works that encourage peace and reconciliation in Ireland.

The sitcom’s final episode, written by the show’s creator Lisa McGee, was named winner of the Christopher Ewart-Biggs Literary Prize at a ceremony in London, with the prestigious award presented by Line of Duty actor Adrian Dunbar.

The award is presented every two years for writing that promotes peace in Ireland and also “a greater understanding between the peoples of Britain and Ireland, or closer co-operation between the partners of the European Community”.

Derry Girls put Derry back on the map for all the right reasons
Derry Girls ran for three seasons on Channel Four.

The prize celebrates the ideals of former British ambassador to Ireland Christopher Ewart-Biggs, who was killed by the IRA in Dublin in 1976.

The detonation of a land mine while the 56-year-old was travelling in a vehicle to attend a meeting with the Republic’s foreign affairs minister Dr Garret FitzGerald, also killed 26-year-old civil servant civil servant Judith Cooke, and seriously injured NIO civil servant Brian Cubbon and driver driver Brian O’Driscoll.

Mr Ewart-Biggs’ widow Jane founded the literary prize in order to promote Anglo-Irish relations following his death.

Ms McGee said the award “means the world to me” and quiped that it was “finally something my parents are impressed with.”

Derry Girls previously earned Ms McGee a nomination for the award in 2020, alongside nominees including journalist Sam McBride for his book on the Cash for Ash scandal, Burned.

She lost out that year to Belfast author Anna Burns for her 2018 Booker Prize-winning novel Milkmen.

This year she faced competition from west Belfast author Michael Magee for his debut novel Close to Home, and BBC documentary Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland.

Derry Girls’ final episode, which was broadcast in 2022, shows the characters voting in the 1998 referendum on the Good Friday Agreement.

The cast of Derry Girls pictured on the set of the final episode, which was set during the 1998 Good Friday Agreement referendum.
The cast of Derry Girls pictured on the set of the final episode, which was set during the 1998 Good Friday Agreement referendum.

Speaking for the award judges, Professor Roy Foster said: “This year’s short-list highlighted various analyses of Northern Ireland’s recent past, from different genres: historical research, personal testament, literary analysis, fiction and drama. Each of these powerful works defined, in unexpected ways, the journey towards the Agreement reached just over a quarter of a century ago, reminding us not only of its considerable achievement, but the fragility of the structures on which it was based.

“In the end the Judges decided that ‘Derry Girls’ approached the underlying questions of prejudice, antagonism, cultural division and violence with unique humour, empathy and verve, illuminating the decision to endorse the Good Friday Agreement, and linking it to a generation coming of age at a moment of hope.”