BlogOfTheMoon

Tuesday, 24 May 2022

Having Feelings About the Derry Girls Finale

I’ve loved Derry Girls since the moment very early on when Ma Mary complained that Strabane got wheelie bins before they did.  I both cheered a reference to my hometown and admired the ease with which creator and writer Lisa McGee painted the everyday life and concerns of a Derry family in a relatable (and very funny) way.  Since then I’ve come to adore it for its pitch-perfect representation of the North West of Northern Ireland in the late 90s, and, by extension, of my adolescence.  Not to mention its absolutely banging soundtrack.

Northern Ireland, and the North West in particular, doesn’t get very much traction in the media, outwith tired stereotypes of sectarianism and division, so this slice of life show, complete with ’90s nostalgia was a complete breath of fresh air.  And from the reception it got, not just in other parts of the UK, but worldwide, it seems that its appeal isn’t limited to the Province; it might seem superficially parochial, but its themes are universal.  If you’ve not already seen it, the first season is on Netflix (in the UK) and the whole thing is available on All 4.  You won’t regret it.

The final two episodes aired this week, and both were devastating in their own ways.  The penultimate episode, Halloween, was hilarious, right up to the final scenes.  The final episode, The Agreement, was a double-length special and I was crying solidly for the last ten minutes of it.  Set a year after the events of the previous episode, it leads up to the referendum on the Good Friday Agreement, and reflects on the arguments for and against it, particularly through an argument between Erin and Michelle over prisoner release.

I had already left Northern Ireland by this point (it’s to my everlasting regret that I didn’t get a postal vote organised soon enough to vote in the referendum), but I still remember the arguments for and against that this episode plays so well.  But particularly, the conversation that Erin has with her granddad where she worries about all the people killed or injured during the Troubles, and if letting the people who did that out of prison is worth it.  While he responds with hope and optimism for the future were so reflective of that time, and… I just lost it.  I didn’t stop crying until well after the episode ended.  Maybe it wouldn’t affect you as much if you weren’t there, if you don’t remember that time, and everything we poured into the Agreement back then, but it punched me repeatedly in the feels.  From there, to the shots of the various extended cast casting their votes, to that final, jaw-dropping, cameo.

It feels like this is a perfectly timed slice of media.  We’re nearly a quarter of a century beyond the Agreement and a whole generation have grown up never knowing what the Troubles were like, and taking the (imperfect) peace we have now for granted.  And even those of us who remember it can do with being reminded every so often.  Derry Girls did that, and it did it with humour and grace.  And goodness knows that there’s many people who need that reminder.

The Westminster elite rarely notices, never mind cares about, Northern Ireland, but I hope some of them watched that episode and paused for a moment to reflect on what they’re doing and what they’re potentially destroying.

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

RIP John Hume

Politicians come and go all the time. I must confess that I haven’t given much thought to John Hume in many years, so I was taken aback by how much his death, announced yesterday, moved and saddened me.

Hume was a towering figure in my youth, when I was just starting to become politically aware. He was a voice of reason, always calm, always compassionate and yet passionate. He was hugely brave in insisting that the paramilitaries needed to be brought into the fold while the violence was still going on.

More than anyone other than maybe Mo Mowlam, I associate Hume with the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement. The Agreement isn’t perfect, and hasn’t stopped all the violence, but even from my now-distant vantage point, it’s a hell of a lot better than when I was growing up. And that’s in no small part due to John Hume.

RIP sir. Your legacy lives on.

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