‘Joke’s on you, Mam!’ Siobhán McSweeney raises the roof with her Bafta acceptance speech

At the Bafta TV awards 2023, Siobhán McSweeney joins Lisa McGee, Anne-Marie Duff and Sharon Horgan as Derry Girls and Bad Sisters scoop prizes

Irish talent shone at the Bafta TV awards in London on Sunday night, when Siobhán McSweeney, Lisa McGee, Anne-Marie Duff and Sharon Horgan won prizes for their work on Derry Girls and Bad Sisters.

McSweeney won the first Bafta TV award of the evening, for best female performance in a comedy programme. The 43-year-old actor was recognised for her role as Sr Michael, the eye-rolling principal of Our Lady Immaculate College, in McGee’s Channel 4 sitcom Derry Girls.

At the start of her acceptance speech she joked: “So I’ve been warned to not do a political statement or to be, like, really, really boring or sad and stuff. So I’m going to start with a funny bit. As my mother lay dying, in the Bon Secours Hospital 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, Mam!”

The comedy about a group of teenagers growing up in Derry in the 1990s was a sleeper hit that built a large 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.


In a humorous speech, which McSweeney read at double speed because of the short time available, she said: “To the people of 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 Sr Michael, ‘It’s time they started to wise up.’”

She also thanked the people of Cork, “who supported me despite the fact I’m not Cillian Murphy” – “It must be very difficult for you,” she added – and thanked McGee, the series’ writer and creator, for giving her the role and “not listening to me when I said I could play all the girls’ parts.”

McGee won the Bafta TV award for best scripted comedy; she thanked Channel 4, asking it to “please never change”, and also thanked “our first home, Derry”.

Anne-Marie Duff won the supporting-actress award for Bad Sisters, Sharon Horgan’s tale of five siblings who attempt to murder one of their monstrous husbands.

In her speech, she said TV was a “political arena” and shared a message to people at home. “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.”

Sharon Horgan also picked up a second Bafta for Bad Sisters, which won the TV award for best drama series.

During her acceptance speech she said she stood in “solidarity” with the US writers’ strike. Horgan also said the show was a “really difficult shoot” but praised the “brilliant” cast during her speech. “It all begins and ends with the writers, so we are in solidarity with our WGA brothers and sisters.”

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent