BBC accused of cutting short Siobhan McSweeney's BAFTA speech criticising 'ignorant' government

Siobhan McSweeney with the award for Female Performance in a Comedy Programme, for Derry Girls, at the Bafta Television Awards 2023
Derry Girls star Siobhan McSweeney at the BAFTA Television Awards 2023. Credit: PA

The BBC has been accused of cutting a speech by actor Siobhan McSweeney at the Bafta TV awards short, before she went on to criticise the government.

Part of the Derry Girls star’s speech referring to the "ignorance and stupidity" of "so-called leaders in Dublin, Stormont, and Westminster" appeared absent from Sunday's BBC One broadcast.

McSweeney won the Best Female Performance in a Comedy prize for her turn as the sharp-tongued Sister Michael in the Channel 4 comedy, which is set during The Troubles in Northern Ireland.

The 43-year-old actress won the award for her role as the eye-rolling nun headteacher at the show’s Our Lady Immaculate College, in the Channel 4 programme.

In her speech, which she delivered in double speed due to the short time given, McSweeney thanked her family and the show’s creator Lisa McGee.

She also called out the government – but these comments did not make it onto the BBC broadcast of the ceremony.

In the part of her speech that did not air on the BBC but was broadcast on the official BAFTA livestream, McSweeney 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’.”

Lisa McGee and Siobhan McSweeney with the award for Scripted Comedy, for Derry Girls, at the Bafta Television Awards 2023. Credit: PA

Responding to the criticism a BBC spokesperson said: "As in previous years, due to the nature of the show it is broadcast with a short delay, and while we always aim to keep the core sentiment of acceptance speeches, edits have to be made due to time constraints."

Derry Girls, a show about a group of teenagers growing up in the Northern Ireland city in the 1990s, has been praised for offering a new perspective on the Troubles period 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”. 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.”

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