(Photo: Peter Marley)
The Derry Girls finale delivered everything it needed to and them some, pairing the usual shenanigans with some top tier cameos, quintessential Aunt Sarah, and a bewitching futuristic gadget: the microwave.
But writer Lisa McGee wasn’t afraid to get political, either, doing what she does best: telling the story of Northern Ireland’s history with relatable people at the heart.
The hour-long special was set around the time of the Good Friday Agreement referendum in 1998, which happened to coincide with Orla’s 18th birthday.
We watched as Michelle and Erin debated which way to vote (Michelle longed for her brother to be released from prison, Erin worried about the safety of a mass prisoner release), before Grandpa Joe urged the “wains” to take a leap of faith for a brighter future: “What if no one else has to die?”
While a quick straw poll around the office reveals some did learn about the Troubles at school, a lot of us did not. And on Twitter, it seems others missed out on this pretty critical history lesson, too.
The final, poignant scene in Derry Girls has been praised for teaching the rest of the UK more about Northern Ireland’s history in five minutes than their entire secondary school education.
I learned more about the Good Friday agreement in the five minute closing #DerryGirls montage than I learned in the entirety of my education in the UK, and that is literally not an exaggeration in the least
— dan hett (@danhett) May 18, 2022
In three seasons of TV @LisaMMcGee has educated English people more about recent Irish history than their school and media systems have managed to do in a generation. Bravo to her and to @Channel4. And long live #DerryGirls.
— Declan Lawn (@DecLawn) May 19, 2022
This scene floored me. And I feel ignorant for not knowing more about Northern Ireland's history. What you have done @LisaMMcGee with #DerryGirls is translate that through an iconic 90s soundtrack, *stellar* cast and with some of the funniest craic... Thank you ❤️ https://t.co/RmIK4pYXKd
— Suzanne Butterworth (@suzanneeb) May 18, 2022
i wonder how many british people watch derry girls and are exposed to the history of the north and the atrocities that occurred at the hands of british forces for the very first time. i don’t think many TV shows will leave a legacy in the same way that #DerryGirls inevitably will
— shauna (@wednesdaysadums) May 18, 2022
Why is education about this period of (very recent) history so shocking? It could partly be down to caution – but that’s no excuse.
A 2021 report found education about the Troubles isn’t even up to scratch in Northern Ireland.
The report, titled “It didn’t end in 1998: Examining the Impact of Conflict Legacy Across Generations”, found education via school and home varied widely among those born after 1998.
“Children’s opportunities to discuss and make sense of the Troubles are limited,” the report said, according to the BBC.
“The potential to glorify or romanticise the past was a key concern where children were not included in discussions about the impact of the Troubles/conflict in communities and families.
“Participants noted that selective or partial accounts may perpetuate sectarian views that can reinforce a divisive mind-set between communities across the generations.”
But following Brexit, it’s vital we all get clued up on this stuff. The UK and the EU are once again at loggerheads over the Northern Ireland Protocol. Northern Ireland is technically the only place in the UK with a European border, thanks to its border with the Republic. But understandably, many want to honour the Good Friday Agreement and avoid putting a hard border between the two.
Following the finale, people on social media urged politicians to watch Derry Girls for a “timely reminder” of their responsibly to act in the best interests of the people.
Tories pushing to break the Northern Ireland Protocol would do well to re-watch all of #DerryGirls
Tonight's finale was a beautiful & timely reminder of politician's responsibility to act in the best interests of the people who elect them - not their own#DerryGirlsFinalepic.twitter.com/gxmtujUywS
— Tom Spencer (@TPSpencer88) May 18, 2022
— mark blanchfield (@blanchie101) May 18, 2022
OMG I’m going to miss the #DerryGirls ! #GoneButNotForgotten
Such a poignant end, especially with all the Westminster shenanigans surrounding the Northern Ireland protocol & the risk to increased violence.
Johnson’s government should hang their heads in shame!
— Sibéal Ní Fallúin🕊🇮🇪 🇪🇺🕊 (@NiSibeal) May 18, 2022
You’d really hope the people leading these talks already have an in-depth knowledge of Northern Ireland’s history.
But if Derry Girls can make the rest of wake up to own ignorance – and commit to learning more immediately – that’s a pretty good legacy.
A cracker job, some might say.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.