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Derry Girls wins Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize

Derry Girls creator and writer Lisa McGee has been announced as the winner of the 28th Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize, an award founded in memory of the British Ambassador to Ireland who was murdered by the IRA in 1976.

Derry native McGee won the £7,500 prize for the third series of the hit Channel 4 comedy drama, which dramatized the passing of The Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

The winner was announced on Tuesday evening at a reception in the Irish Embassy in London and the prize was presented to Ms McGee by Enniskillen actor Adrian Dunbar.

Derry Girls

Speaking on behalf of the judges, Irish historian and academic Professor Roy Foster said, “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.

“This powerfully endorsed key objectives of the Prize, namely, to promote and encourage peace and reconciliation in Ireland, and a greater understanding between the peoples of Britain and Ireland.”

The first Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize was awarded in 1977 and it is administered by the Ewart-Biggs Trust, which includes children of Mr Ewart-Biggs and his late widow Jane Ewart-Biggs, Robin and Kate.

Lisa McGee

The objectives of the Prize are to “recognize work that promotes and encourages peace and reconciliation in Ireland, a greater understanding between the peoples of Britain and Ireland, or closer co-operation between the partners of the European Community”.

Speaking on Tuesday evening, Professor Foster added, “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.”

The other shortlisted entries for the Memorial Prize were the books by Huw Bennett, Uncivil War: the British Army and the Troubles, 1966-1975 and Marilynn Richtarik, Getting to Good Friday: Literature and the Peace Process in Northern Ireland; Michael Magee’s novel, Close to Home; Owen McCafferty stage play, Agreement; and the five-part BBC TV series Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland.

Previous winners of the award include novelist Anna Burns for her work Milkman, Brian Keenan for his memoir, An Evil Cradling, Frank McGuinness for his play, Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching towards the Somme, and Robert Kee for this book and RTÉ/BBC TV series, Ireland: A Television History.

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