Siobhan McSweeney praises Derry ‘despite leaders’ ignorance’ at Bafta TV awards

Siobhan McSweeney has won the first Bafta TV award for best female performance in a comedy programme.

The 43-year-old actress won the award for her role as Sister Michael, the eye-rolling principal of the show’s Our Lady Immaculate College, in Channel 4 programme Derry Girls.

In the humorous speech, which she said in double speed given the short time given, she said: “To the people in Derry, thank you taking me into your hearts and your living rooms.

“I am daily impressed with how you encompass the spirit of compromise and resilience despite the indignities, ignorance and stupidity of your so-called leaders (in) Dublin, Stormont and Westminster.

“In the words of my beloved Sister Michael, ‘it’s time they started to wise up’.”

The comedy about a group of teenagers growing up in Londonderry in the 1990s was a sleeper hit that built a large and committed following across its three series.

Set during the Troubles, the show was praised for offering a new perspective on the period of the IRA and loyalist ceasefires through the eyes of a group of young girls.

At the beginning of the speech, McSweeney joked: “As my mother laid dying in Cork, one of the very last things she said to me was, would I not consider retraining as a teacher.

“If she could see me now getting a Bafta for playing a teacher. Joke’s on you.”

She also thanked the people of Cork “who supported me despite the fact I’m not Cillian Murphy”, adding “it must be very difficult for you”.

The Great Festive Bake Off
Derry Girls actors Dylan Llewellyn, Jamie-Lee O’Donnell, Nicola Coughlan, Saoirse-Monica Jackson and Siobhan McSweeney appearing in The Great Festive Bake Off (C4/Love Productions/Mark Bourdillon/PA)

McSweeney also thanked Derry Girls writer Lisa McGee “for not listening to me when I said I could play all the girls’ parts” and praised Channel 4, adding “you have my devotion.”

Other poignant speeches came from best supporting actress Anne-Marie Duff for the comedy Bad Sisters, who said that TV is a “political arena” and shared a message to people at home.

The 52-year-old Sex Education star said: “If someone..is in their life who is bullying them who is telling them that who they are is wrong, that what they are isn’t enough…I am telling you now you are everything.”

It was also a big night for entertainment programmes, as ITV’s The Masked Singer fought off competition from Ant And Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway and Strictly Come Dancing to win best entertainment programme.

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Joel Dommett and Hannah Cooper attending the Bafta Television Awards 2023 at the Royal Festival Hall, London (Yui Mok/PA)

Host Joel Dommett said in his speech: “I really didn’t expect this, Strictly normally wins everything.

“Thank you so much to ITV firstly for believing in this silly show, it is so silly and it’s so wonderful, it has brightened up so many families and homes.”

Judge Mo Gilligan said: “People tied to mock it when it first came out, and now it has won a Bafta. It is great escapism…people at home don’t want to watch something depressing.”

Meanwhile, the reality and constructed factual award went to hit BBC One psychological adventure show The Traitors which sees strangers play “the ultimate game of detection, backstabbing and trust” at a Scottish Highlands castle in the hope of winning big.

Collecting the prize, presenter Claudia Winkleman, 51, thanked the BBC and referenced the meeting where commissioning editors agreed to make the show saying: “We are going to Scotland, we’re going to use the word murder – are you OK with that?”

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Claudia Winkleman attending the Bafta Television Awards 2023 at the Royal Festival Hall, London (Yui Mok/PA)

The Uefa Women’s Euro 2022 coverage also won a Bafta TV award for best sports coverage, after the Lionesses became the first England football team to win an international tournament since 1966.

Meanwhile Channel 4 News: Live In Kyiv won a Bafta TV award for best news coverage, beating Susanna Reid’s Good Morning Britain interview with then prime minister Boris Johnson.

Channel 4’s Europe editor and presenter Matt Frei, who took to the stage alongside anchors including Krishnan Guru-Murthy, said in a speech: “We news people only ever get to go on these stages because we have reported on something that is truly dreadful.

“Let’s remember the people of Ukraine who cannot be here tonight, who cannot leave their country. Lets also remember the 11 journalists who have been killed in covering just this conflict alone.

“And also I would like to say, Channel 4, we have had the privatisation hanging over us, which makes Penny Mordaunt’s sword look like a toothpick. But it’s gone, spirited away.

“Let’s not forget the public service news broadcasting, it’s complicated, it’s costly, and sometimes it can be tedious and really depressing but it also really matters.”

Bafta Television Awards 2023
Chair of Bafta, Krish Majumdar (Yui Mok/PA)

His speech followed the speech from Bafta chairman Krishnendu Majumdar describing public service broadcasting as a “fundamental” part of TV culture in a speech.

Comedians Rob Beckett and Romesh Ranganathan took to the stage sharing a host of jokes during the ceremony at the Royal Festival Hall on Sunday.

Lewis Capaldi gave his first televised performance of new single Wish You The Best alongside DJ Jax Jones and singer Calum Scott who took to the stage performing their song, Whistle.

Jones said: “Big up Kate Winslet” ahead of performing the track which also saw dancers dressed as fish on stage.

The Bafta Television Awards with P&O Cruises will be broadcast on BBC One and iPlayer on Sunday at 7pm.