Derry Girls the Channel 4 TV series which became a global success story during its three season run, and is set in the Northern Irish city of Derry (also known as Londonderry) during the 1990s.
When does Derry Girls Take Place?
Derry Girls aired for 3 series and a total of 19 episodes, including an extended one-off finale episode. The first episode begins in 1994 and the last finishes in 1998 so Derry Girls technically takes place during the mid-1990s.
What was Northern Ireland like during the 1990s?
Those familiar with their Irish and British history will know that, in hindsight, the 1990s signalled the beginning of the end of The Troubles, the three-decade long civil war that raged throughout Northern Ireland, and oftentimes spilled into the Republic of Ireland and Britain.
Over 3000 people were killed during the conflict, with thousands more injured, and by the mid-1990s the public, key stakeholders on both sides and new governments in both the UK and Ireland, were tired and seeking real change.
The combination of this fatigue, and young energised leaders in America, the UK, and Ireland, alongside decades of political work in Northern Ireland, eventually resulted in the Good Friday Peace Agreement of 1998.
Derry Girls takes place with all of this context and history swirling in the background, occasionally rearing its ugly head.
What were ‘The Troubles’ about?
The history between Ireland and England (later the United Kingdom) is centuries old, bloodied and intricate and an article on Derry Girls won’t do it justice (understatement!).
That being said, The Troubles (as the civil war became known) began in the late-1960s when the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland began protesting for equal civil rights in what was a Protestant government for a Protestant people from the inception of Northern Ireland in 1921.
In the decades that followed the war essentially became a battle between those who believed Northern Ireland should remain part of the UK, and those who believed it should reunite with the Republic of Ireland.
As we said, there’s a lot to it…
How Accurate is Derry Girls about The Troubles?
Lisa McGee, creator and head writer on the show, is a Derry native, growing up and coming of age in Derry and Northern Ireland during the mid-1990s.
As a result, the show has been praised for its realistic portrayal of the last stages of The Troubles as well as the beginnings of a new Northern Ireland post-Good Friday Agreement.
The show regularly weaves seminal historical moments, such as paramilitary ceasefires, President Bill Clinton’s visit to Northern Ireland in 1995, and the signing of the Peace Agreement, with the mundanities of typical teenage life to create a show that’s funny, dramatic and poignant in equal measures.
However, the show doesn’t claim to be historical fiction or documentary and should be considered as a dramatic reimagining of the time.
Historical Events that happened in Derry Girls:
The 1994 Ceasefire:
During the penultimate episode of series 2, and in the real world, the IRA agreed to a temporary ceasefire on August 31st 1994.
Bill Clinton’s 1995 Visit to Northern Ireland:
In both the show and the real world, Bill Clinton visited Northern Ireland in 1995. This was considered a seminal moment in the years preceding the Good Friday Agreement.
The Omagh Bombing:
In the worst atrocity of The Troubles, a car bomb exploded in Omagh, County Tyrone, leaving 29 people dead.
In the show, the girls avoid the traditional 12th July Orange Parades, traditionally celebrated by Protestant Unionists, by escaping on holiday to Donegal in the Republic of Ireland.
Is the City called Derry or Londonderry?
The city in which the show is set is regularly referred to as both Derry and Londonderry. We know this can be confusing to people from beyond these shores…
Unionists prefer the name Londonderry because the county received a royal charter from the King of England in 1613. This was part of the colonisation of Ireland.
Nationalists prefer the original Irish name of Derry and in many cases will never call it by another name.
In the show, the girls call it Derry because they are raised as Catholic nationalists and, whether or not they realise it, do not see a Royal Charter from a British Monarch as legitimate.
Even today, people with different opinions on the constitutional status of Northern Ireland will call this city by the name that suits their opinion.
In short, call it whatever you want!