Slugger O'Toole

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Looking back on an eventful year with Niall Ó Donnghaile at the unveiling of his portrait by muralist Danny Devenny

Fri 5 October 2012, 4:59pm

It’s unimaginable that even ten years ago a DUP Lord Mayor could have spoken warmly about his Sinn Féin predecessor on the occasion of the public hanging of the mayoral portrait. But this afternoon the Lord Mayor, Alderman Gavin Robinson was warm and gracious in his comments about Councillor Niall Ó Donnghaile at the unveiling of Danny Devenny’s painting.

Normally a muralist more used to thick brushes on gable walls – the Bobby Sands mural on the side of Sinn Féin’s Falls Road offices are perhaps his most prominent work to date – Danny D agreed to the outgoing mayor’s request to capture his image that will now hang in the Belfast City Hall corridors for years to come.

Unlike some of the more stately portraits, Niall’s portrait is housed in a house-shaped frame and the brick-textured canvas is full of detail from his year in office – the Titanic, an MTV mug – as well as images of his two grandmothers, James Connolly and a Short Strand street sign.

Friend of the family Danny Devenny spoke about the process of being asked to paint this portrait and was unphased about having his work hung in the City Hall. Despite some differences in political outlook, the muralist who learnt to draw while in prison has more recently worked along with David Ervine’s son Mark.

Niall agreed to an interview (downloadable mp3) and over twenty minutes talked freely about his year in office and what he had set out to achieve. He also spoke about what happened at the Duke of Edinburgh awards and the fallout that dogged him throughout the second half of his term, sitting beside a cadet at the opening night of the Presbyterian General Assembly, and was critical of media coverage that accused him of “snubbing the Queen”, as well as talking about his improving relationship with Deputy Lord Mayor Ruth Patterson over the year.

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Comments (44)

  1. Ulick (profile) says:

    Niall’s portrait looks super. Well done Danny and well done Niall for bring a bit of life and colour to that fusty oul hole.

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  2. tacapall (profile) says:

    Nationalists should be over the moon, a portrait of a Sinn Fein lord mayor in city hall WOW that will put bread on the table.

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  3. Ulick (profile) says:

    ^^^^^^^^^^

    You’ll need a better troll than that, given there was already a SF mayors portrait there before Niall’s.

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  4. HeinzGuderian (profile) says:

    ‘Niall’s portrait looks super. Well done Danny and well done Niall for bring a bit of life and colour to that fusty oul hole.’

    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

    You mean a ‘better troll’ than that ? ;-)

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  5. Alias (profile) says:

    “It’s unimaginable that even ten years ago a DUP Lord Mayor could have spoken warmly about his Sinn Féin predecessor on the occasion of the public hanging of the mayoral portrait”

    It’s just a shame that as the political hacks in DUP/SF have become more integrated, society has become more segregated.

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  6. tacapall (profile) says:

    “You’ll need a better troll than that, given there was already a SF mayors portrait there before Niall’s.”

    And did he put bread on my table either. ?

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  7. Drumlins Rock (profile) says:

    and what happened to Gandalf’s beard!

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  8. Banjaxed (profile) says:

    And here’s me thinking the art of begrudgery had died out.
    Down to their usual standard, Slugger’s trolls come out of the woodwork.

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  9. babyface finlayson (profile) says:

    I’m sure Niall is a decent fellow, but he really does remind me of Walter the Softy.
    Mind you I’m no oil painting myself (hopes to avoid card).

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  10. andnowwhat (profile) black spot says:

    Could I comment on Niall without getting carded? Doubt it

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  11. Then don’t comment on Niall personally. Talk about what he did or didn’t do as First Citizen.

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  12. andnowwhat (profile) black spot says:

    Joe

    I can’t criticise unionists for objecting to wee girls collecting for their GAA team in the local supermarket and look past what Niall did to that little girl. They are one and the same and whatever tokenism Niall did on the Shankill pales under that one action.

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  13. babyface finlayson (profile) says:

    Mister_Joe
    In my defence,we are being invited to discuss a work of art so maybe I can get away with a little light-hearted reflection on the subject.
    And anyone who allows themselves to be portrayed thus must expect a little vanity pricking.
    Anyway I apologise wholeheartedly for any offence.

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  14. Trapattoni (profile) says:

    Pretty ridiculous that slugger is once again allowing personal digs to be aimed at Niall Ó’Donngaile.
    Mick seems to have dropped those yellow and red cards that he is normally so quick to brandish.
    As for the cadet incident I’m still unsure as to why anyone thinks that lauding a child who is training to kill other children should be par for the course.

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  15. Yes, ANW; that was a pretty sad and low point in his year.

    Babyface, I don’t see any offence. I’m not Mick, of course.

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  16. tomthumbuk (profile) says:

    Trapattoni,
    Re, your comment about the Cadet incident.
    I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you were drunk when you wrote it

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  17. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Just checked, and no one had marked it offensive. Not even you. I took it off when I saw it for the first time this am. And Mr Iluv has yellow for his troubles.

    Grandstanding, much?

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  18. stewart1 (profile) says:

    Pretty pointless site when the trolling is allowed to overrun the place. Feel sorry for Alan and the good contributors, their content is wasted here.

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  19. Trapattoni (profile) says:

    To be fair the content is very good, Alan just wondering I assume there were speeches on the day, do you have those and will you be uploading them???

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  20. Drumlins Rock (profile) says:

    will confess I rarely listen to audio or video clips on slugger, so I hope Alan forgives those who treat this mainly as a lgiht hearted thread on a picture. Have always admired the various lord mayor pics and I think they are a valuable hisoric archive of social history, one or two look rediculous after a few years, a few have an interesting and original take on the tradition. Niall’s pic falls inbetween the two, think it is the “frame” that buggs me a bit.

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  21. iluvni (profile) says:

    A yellow for that. What a crock.

    Anyhow, I note its ‘Mr Iluv’ now…always interesting to note the lengths to which some will go to avoid using that wee ‘ni’ at the end of my username. By jove, it presents such a problem for some.

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  22. Dont Drink Bleach (profile) says:

    Remember Sammy Wilson as Lord Mayor??

    http://alturl.com/5ghbc

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  23. Drumlins Rock (profile) says:

    DDB, I was extremely nervous clicking that link!

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  24. babyface finlayson (profile) says:

    stewart1
    A large part of the content is about the Lord Mayor’s portrait. Surely a subject which invites a fairly light hearted response.
    I suppose it is part of the trappings of the office, but does anyone know if any previous holders of this office have refused to indulge in such nonsense?

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  25. sonofstrongbow (profile) says:

    Slugger does seem to be attracting a rather prickly bunch these days.

    I guess if you inhabit a culture where enforced conformity together with knee jerk defence of usuns against imagined attacks by themuns are the default settings what else is to be expected?

    Ok so they don’t understand what ‘trolling’ is, I can accept that; but I defy anyone to objectively look at the photograph in the piece and not think that the ex Lord Mayor looks weirdly small, and seems overly burdened by the ‘artwork’ that the other guy appears to hold with ease.

    It may just be that the photographer is kackhanded and the perspective is all wrong. The Lord Mayor may indeed be plus-six foot Adonis but given the evidence presented here I’d not be surprised to learn that he has extremely furry feet.

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  26. ArdoyneUnionist (profile) says:

    I will relay an example of what is another of our past Lord Mayor’s pettiness only this time it was not just one girl Army Cadet he insulted it was 100′s of people paying their respect at the National Day of Remembrance at the Cenotaph at the Belfast Garden of Remembrance Belfast City Hall.

    For the past 10 years I have received an invitation from Belfast Lord Mayor to attend the National Day of Remembrance at the Cenotaph at the Belfast Garden of Remembrance Belfast City Hall, including invitations from Alex Maskey and Tom Hartley.

    However last year I didn’t get the letter and phoned the Lord Mayor’s office to inquire as to where the invitation was. This is because I have to give names and addresses of those attending with me and the name of the organization we are representing. This is for the order of service and to organize the wreaths???

    The nice lady said that the Lord Mayor was not sending out invitations.

    I never thought anything of it on till tonight when I checked my post box and low and behold there was an invitation for this year’s National Day of Remembrance.

    I can only conclude that last years shinner Lord Mayor, just as he did with the young girl Army Cadet put his precious republican ideals and MOPE’ry before handing the young girl Army Cadet her certificate and Honoring the Glorious Dead and representing all the people of Belfast.

    Quite pathetic really, not only did he snub a young girl Army Cadet he has insulted the 100′s who attend the National Day of Remembrance.

    “As Lord Mayor I was invited to attend The Duke of Edinburgh Awards in City Hall,” he said. “I agreed to present a number of the awards to the young people in recognition of their endeavours. As an Irish republican I did not shirk my responsibilities in this instance. At the last minute I was informed that one of the awards was to be presented to a representative of the Army Cadet Force.

    “In order to avoid any unnecessary sensitivities to either party, it was arranged for the outgoing chairman of the organisation to present some of the certificates alongside me.

    Read more: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/northern-ireland/sinn-fein-lord-mayors-snub-to-army-cadet-at-awards-ceremony-16085056.html#ixzz28YLkWbJm

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  27. HeinzGuderian (profile) says:

    ‘Niall’s portrait looks super. Well done Danny and well done Niall for bring a bit of life and colour to that fusty oul hole.’

    by JRR Tolkien :-)

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  28. Obelisk (profile) says:

    “I guess if you inhabit a culture where enforced conformity together with knee jerk defence of usuns against imagined attacks by themuns are the default settings what else is to be expected?”

    Funny. That’s the opinion a lot of harder-line Nationalists seem to have of the Orangemen. Isn’t it funny the strange bedfellows you can make when wallowing in the depth of bigotry?

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  29. babyface finlayson (profile) says:

    Drumlins Rock
    As an admirer of these works of art, can you tell me if anyone has ever said “no thanks, a polaroid snap will do for me”.
    I would have hoped that republicans would be above such petty bourgeois activity.

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  30. Drumlins Rock (profile) says:

    bf, there is at least one that is a photo, something makes me think it is sammy, but don’t quote me on that, pretty sure it was DUP in the days they saw themselves as anti establishment still.

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  31. babyface finlayson (profile) says:

    Drumlins Rock
    Thanks for that.
    Sammy has just gone up in my estimation. Such a rebel.

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  32. SK (profile) says:

    “but I defy anyone to objectively look at the photograph in the piece and not think that the ex Lord Mayor looks weirdly small, and seems overly burdened by the ‘artwork’ that the other guy appears to hold with ease.”

    _______

    Is this what it’s come to? “Themmuns are funny lookin”?

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  33. JoeBryce (profile) says:

    Rotating the mayoralty works well. I suggest the principle should extend to FM and DFM.

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  34. sonofstrongbow (profile) says:

    Well done SK.

    I’ve embarked on a project, call it ‘MOPE Watch’, and I’ll be awarding a Green Card for ‘Mope of the Day’ (La Mope in Irish perhaps?).

    You’re the first recipient. Congratulations, and at 1.46 am impressive.

    You’ll only hold it for 24 hours and there’s no prize, sorry.

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  35. sonofstrongbow (profile) says:

    Oh, and by the way are you suggesting that the saviours of Middle Earth are “funny looking”?

    How very dare you!

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  36. SK (profile) says:

    “I’ve embarked on a project, call it ‘MOPE Watch’, and I’ll be awarding a Green Card for ‘Mope of the Day’ (La Mope in Irish perhaps?).”

    __________

    Apart from being a bit, well, sad…

    This kind of spam also contravenes the commenting guidelines. Perhaps is you have nothing conductive/interesting to contribute to a thread, you would be better off simply sitting it out?

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  37. sonofstrongbow (profile) says:

    Well of course SK I understand I operate at a much lower level of commentary than your good self. How could, I mere mortal (and one of themuns to boot) ever hope to match your erudite, witty and insightful bon mots?

    Nevertheless I can but plough on.

    In the spirit of the thing here’s a caption for the photo in question, just between ourselves of course: ‘A Terrible Beauty is Borne’.

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  38. SK (profile) says:

    SoS

    You’ve admitted that you’re only posting these childish non-sequiturs because, fingers crossed, it might annoy a fenian or two. If this is where you choose set the bar for yourself, that’s your business.

    But it is a pity.

    Incidentally, you may want to be careful about commenting on the physical attractiveness of other males. The unionist community isn’t very open-minded when it comes to that sort of thing.

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  39. sonofstrongbow (profile) says:

    SK

    Right back at you with a reprise of para 1 in my 1:15 pm.

    Pity you went for the sectarian stereotyping option though; beneath your cerebral musings surely?

    Best if I just ignore the implied tincture of homophobia. ;(

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  40. SK (profile) says:

    SoS,

    Recent events at Stormont would suggest that homophobia is more of a unionist trait. But I’m sure that’s merely a stereotype, with no kernel of truth whatsoever.

    Anyway, that’s enough feeding the trolls for one day. I will leave you and your thesaurus in peace.

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  41. Alias (profile) says:

    While it is nice to some to see a Shinner Lord Mayor engaging in a British political tradition of having his protrait hung in the office, if taxpayers’ money couldn’t be spent on something more useful to taxpayers then perhaps it should have been returned to them instead of being squandered on quaint but outdated British traditions?

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  42. Having a bad day, Alias? Not just a British tradition. It is common around the world. Oh, sorry, I see. Remnants of the British Empire, I guess.

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  43. Was it Danny Devenny who organised the election campaign mural in the Short Strand for Niall?

    I liked that mural, but surely it should have had the published by details in the corner, like any other election publicity?

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  44. Alias (profile) says:

    Joe, it is a British tradition. Where the US – a former colony – still practices it, such as with Governors, each former governor pays for his own portrait and donates it to the state if his vanity duly compels him.

    While that is how US republicans have a amended British tradition to pay for their own vanity, I’d like to know if the Shinners force the taxpayers to pay for this British tradition – and 99% sure of the answer.

    Really, the Lord Mayor of Belfast is no more important than a regional manager of Tesco so this vanity is laughable…

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