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Derry Girls star among critics of former minister's claim hit show is 'distinctly British'

Channel 4 sitcom Derry Girls, starring Nicola Coughlan, Saoirse Jackson, Louisa Harland, Jamie-Lee O'Donnell, and Dylan Llewellyn, is set in Derry during the 1990s. The second series of the popular comedy was broadcast in August 2019.
Paul Ainsworth

A star of sitcom Derry Girls has hit back at a claim by the UK's former media minister that the popular TV show is "distinctly British".

John Whittingdale, who up until yesterday was Minister of State for Media and Data before losing the post in a cabinet reshuffle, made the claim during a speech this week to the Royal Television Society conference in Cambridge.

The Conservative MP for Maldon told guests of plans for a white paper that will "include proposals that will expand the remit of public service broadcasters, so that it includes a requirement for them to produce 'distinctively British' content".

Giving examples of shows he considered fit this description, he mentioned classic BBC sitcoms Only Fools and Horses and Blackadder.

However, he went on to name Bafta-nominated Channel 4 sitcom Derry Girls, written by Lisa McGee and featuring a group of schoolgirls from an nationalist background, as another example.

"Take Derry Girls. A show that addresses the Troubles...it could only have been made here," he said.

Later in the speech, he said: "If it’s set in Britain and made in Britain by our public service broadcasters, then it should be distinctively British."

However, a star of Derry Girls, which is produced by UK-based hat Trick Productions and set in Derry during the 1990s, responded to the claims in a tweet yesterday.

Siobhan McSweeney, who plays no-nonsense nun Sister Michael in the show, wrote: "Derry Girls is made by a British company and aired by a British channel. But it’s not a 'distinctively British' programme. But what would I know?"

Derry Girls creator Lisa referred to a news report about the former minister's claim, and jokingly wrote in a tweet: "The most ‘Ach I can’t be dealing with this today’ headline I’ve seen about the show. And there’s been a few."

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