19) Troubled Images: Posters and Images of the Northern Ireland Conflict from the Linen Hall Library, Belfast, ed. Yvonne Murphy, Allan Leonard, Gordon Gillespie and Kris Brown
Lots of pictures here, many of them very familiar to me from my own experience of Northern Ireland politics. The explanatory text is best when it explains the roots of some of the images used; the political commentary, however, has dated rather rapidly.
One thing that surprised me was the prominence of Cedric Wilson as a personality in this side of things. I knew him as a rather buffoonish character at the time I was most involved – he was the one who heckled President Clinton at his speech at Mackies in December 1995, and when I was involved with the Mitchell talks he was still hanging around with Bob McCartney, though they split fairly quickly after the 1998 Assembly elections. But according to this book he designed both the “Ulster Say No” logo of the mid-80s, and the “Heart for Ulster” anti-Agreement logo more recently. I have to honestly confess this is the first I’d heard of it, but presumably the editors did their research, which means I seriously underestimated him.
Not all Unionist posters were as memorable as the ones attributed to Cedric Wilson. I was going to illustrate this post with several bad ones, but realised that this would look rather unbalanced, as none of the Nationalist or Republican ones are particularly bad, while the non-sectarian/ centre grouns oned tend to be a bit wince-making. So I will only give you one, but it is the worst one by far, for the short-lived (and as it turned out ironically named) United Ulster Unionist Party:
Isn’t that truly dire? Too many messages and mixed metaphors: the Good People of Ulster (workman, housewife and businessman) protected by the umbrella of the UUUP from the ambiguous glow of “Westminster moonshine” (not at all clear about the identity of the face from which said moonshine radiates – maybe Roy Mason, who was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in the late 1970s?) and yet the umbrella is not merely a protection, it is a spike which slays the verminous IRA.
It is not easy for a splinter group (or in the case of the UUUP, a splinter of a splinter) to insist convincingly that the path to unity lies in supporting them and nobody else, and this poster comprehensively fails to do the job.
The UUUP’s best performance was in the 1979 Westminster election, when they won Mid Ulster thanks to an electoral carve-up (none of the larger parties wanted to challenge their sitting MP and risk a loss to the Nationalists); apart from that they scored in the 2-3% range and won no seats in the 1982 Assembly election, after which nothing more was heard of them.
Having said which, their deputy leader, Reg Empey, is now the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (formerly the largest party in Northern Ireland, now in close competition for third place with the SDLP).
Anyway, enough of that. I will have to buy the CD of all of them next time I am in Belfast.