Arlene Foster as leader would challenge some cherished media narratives…

So, Nigel Dodds is not going to run for leader of the DUP. Clearly no one told Sammy Wilson, who wasn’t going to run, but is not reportedly reconsidering that view.

Perhaps it was reconsideration of his own words that no one could effectively lead from Westminster. Perhaps it’s the dual commitment he and his wife (a genuine tight political team) have to Westminster and Brussels.

In all likelihood it’s the realisation that as First Minister Foster would be seen as party leader anyway and the title would come to be seen as a fop to his ego. In any case, Mr Dodds seems to be doing just fine in London.

To be spoken of – even in absentia by failed plotters – as a replacement Speaker demonstrates a status unusual for any Northern Ireland MP in Westminster. Despite the unravelling of the Labour party, his eight MPs still have potential to broker.

More importantly perhaps though, Dodds’ late move – and both his and Robinson’s strong sponsorship of Foster – looks like presaging a proper changing of the Guard at the DUP.

Only the second major Northern Irish party leader to be a woman and a former UUPer, Foster’s rise runs counter to a long favoured analysis in the NI political media that the DUP consists mostly of a few modernisers living in fear of backwoodsmen.

That’s a perception that will be harder to sustain under Foster than it was under Robinson, or would have been under Dodds. Or even Wilson. Just when things were starting to look up for Mike Nesbitt and the UUP…

As our own Chris Donnelly put it on Twitter last night…

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  • Kevin Breslin

    I don’t think even having Eammon McCann as leader of the DUP, Moosajee Bhamjee as his deputy, and Dustin the Turkey as First Minister would cause our media to abandon their precious media narratives.

  • chrisjones2

    Eamonn might!

  • Kevin Breslin

    I was thinking more of a hostile takeover than a conversion.

  • davidrees1916

    Arlene Foster, like a wasp chewing a bulldog.

  • tmitch57

    I imagine that she will last as DUP leader longer than Brid Rodgers lasted as deputy leader of the SDLP.

  • Jollyraj

    Is that kind of mysogyny acceptable now, s’ long as the lady in question is white, Christian and unionist?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh, if only………..

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Jollyraj, as a cartoonist myself, I’d be stumped to caricature Arlene any other way. Mysogyny would be described customarily as “dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women”…..

    David’s comment to my mind refers to very much to Arlene personally rather than to women in general, unless of course you’d contend that he believes all women to look like that. But I’d suggest, should you genuinely wish to nail him, that “(wo)man playing” would be the more accurate charge.

  • CB Belfast

    Agree with Chris Donnelly that the DUP are miles ahead in terms of succession planning than any other party. There’s a dearth of talent in northern SF, whilst DUP have a pool of people who are likely to be competent Ministers (by NI standards).

    However, this article implies that Foster should be considered a ‘moderniser’. I’m not sure what the standard is here (DUP, UK, general societal norms?) – but I personally wouldn’t immediately count Foster as one.

    As for tired media narratives generally. Well, it’s Northern Ireland – our media can be very lazy. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

  • Gopher

    Was one of SF’s selling points that it was young and vigourous?

  • Nevin

    Arlene’s style reminds me of Margaret Thatcher so can I name her ‘The Norn Iron Lady’?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh Nevin, as Aubery Beardsley said to one of Oscar’s bon mots, “I wish I’d said that….”

    A real arguement for the five star upvote bonus to be permitted!

  • Pete

    I find it incredibly rude, but don’t see how it’s misogynistic?

  • Anglo-Irish

    I believe it was the other way around, Oscar said it after one of Beardsley’s witticisms, to which Aubrey replied ” You will Oscar, you will. “

  • Jollyraj

    He is judging her by her looks (which he finds lacking) rather than her ability. Something which one supposes he wouldn’t do to a man.

  • Nevin

    Seaan, I’ve spotted a different exchange where Whistler had accused Wilde of appropriation:

    Oscar Wilde: I wish I had said that.

    James McNeill Whistler: You will, Oscar, you will.

  • Pete

    I’ve seen comments on Twitter mocking Nigel Dodds’ appearance too. Again, I would view those as rude, but not misandrist…

    Never heard John Prescott or Eric Pickles be mocked for their weight? I certainly have.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    My most sincere apologies. That will teach me to attempt to comment from memory propped up in bed with my laptop, with my head muggy from flu………….

  • SeaanUiNeill

    How “relâche” of you Nevin, (as Oscar DID say of Aubery) some people seem to need to score a point even at a compliment…………..

    I’ll knock that down to a four star up vote.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    As a cartoonist, something of a disciple of the late Marc Boxer and as one who has worked with Gerry Scarfe, i should perhaps mention that we often discover that looks may reflect something profoundly significant about a person. This we take and employ to show things that words alone cannot convey.

    The worst thing in the world is a face entirely without any character whatsoever….. something seldom encountered in the narcissistic world of politics, luckily.

  • Nevin

    Très détendue, Seaan! I’m so laid back I’m almost horizontal!

    Thanks for the complement – and for enhancing my limited knowledge. Think of my intervention as a compliment!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    A well deserved compliment, the five star bit! And outside of Slugger, the NALIL postings have done much to inform and therein “tense me up” to that proper rage needed to focus my own “sæva Indignatio” against the follies of our masters.

  • Anglo-Irish

    The apology should have come from me for correcting you.

    Anyway it would appear that I was hoisted by my own petard, as Nevin has pointed out that it wasn’t Beardsley, which will teach me to stop trying to be a smart arse before checking the facts!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh, don’t worry, I’ve come across the Beardsley version also, but as someone who occasionally made up an Oscar quotes and once passed one off onto Kenneth Williams one afternoon over lunch in Covent Garden, only to see it quoted as a “real Oscar” in one of his books…..

  • Anglo-Irish

    I like that! Read an amusing story about Kenneth Williams a while back.

    He used to regularly impress everyone in the BBC by entering the canteen, ordering a cup of tea and complete The Times crossword whilst drinking it.

    One day he left the paper behind him and someone went to look at it,only to find that he’d simply filled in any old random letters and the entire thing was gibberish.

  • Nevin

    Our public service just keeps giving! Some of its failings can rightly be pinned on politicians but there are times when bureaucrats could demonstrate a little more backbone. Watch this space!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Ken was doing all the voice overs for Nick Spargo’s cartoon “Willo the Wisp” when I met him. He was a lot of fun, but could take offence at almost anything. I used to take some delight, when speaking in the street with some old school Soho Film world homophobe, to hear Ken shouting to me from the far side of a road, rushing over and pouring his latest scurrilous anecdote in my ear!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I will keep my ear to the ground (more probably my eyes to the site!)…..

  • Nevin

    I had a look at NALIL viewing stats the other day and was surprised to see Russia topping the list. Here are the top 8 for the past week: “Russia, Germany, United Kingdom, United States, Ukraine, France and Canada.”

  • Nevin

    Ray Davey was my inspiration in the public realm and John Hume taught me the value of networking!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Perhaps Russia and Germany need to keep their possible invasion plans updated with truly reliable information on the north coast. Its either that or, more probably, the growing ecology lobby in both countries wanting proper information about the environment. US and Canada would probably be commendable exile nostalgia……..

  • Anglo-Irish

    I quite liked him, camp as a boy scout jamboree but amusing with it.

    He struck me as a complex man and probably not the happiest person if he didn’t have an audience to play to.

    Never understood homophobia, it always puzzles me as to why it gets some people so agitated, why they can’t ask themselves what business it is of theirs is beyond me.

    Have to admit when it was first explained to me at quite a young age that some men preferred other men to women my first reaction was purely selfish, ‘ Great! more women for the rest of us! ‘

    You can imagine my chagrin when further explanation was forthcoming.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I saw John in his last illness, bravely trying to give a speech to a mixed audience of locals and American visitors just outside Derry, and receiving tremendous support in hits difficulty. But I also remembered him in full form from the late 1960s. I would very much have liked to meet Ray, but with my years over in the film world in England, it never happened, although I was told of his work by family.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    My grandfather had met Casement, for example, at Ardrigh, and had also imbibed that rich spirit of general tolerance Frank Bigger created all around him there, and the freedom of expression this encouraged in every direction. I grew up only meeting real life homophobes at the very fringes of my family, where the greater number of cousins were solid Unionists with little tolerance of any divergence from their tick lists of moral probity. So I understood just how pervasive it could be here, even amongst usually quite liberal and decent people, but never understood the “why” at all. Same as I could never understand why other quite decent people who wished to claim “Britishness” would not support NICRA or the PD in 1968.

  • Anglo-Irish

    That type of thing puzzles me, I have a good friend who is blatantly homophobic, but to all intents and purposes a kind hearted man in all other respects.

    We have had discussions about it but he cannot be persuaded that some people are simply born that way and it’s no one elses concern.

    At one time he was convinced that it was by choice and really they were just weird heterosexuals.

    After I enquired of him when it was that he made the choice to start fancying women he’s stopped with that one.

    My outlook tends to be that providing it’s between consenting adults, and – as Mrs Patrick Campbell so succinctly put it – they don’t do it in the street and frighten the horses it is fine by me.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    My father in law used to have a perfect answer to homophobic attempts to put someone down at Chelsea parties by suggesting that they were gay, intending some kind of slur. He would answer, “Oh, you’ve had him (or her) then, please, do tell……”

  • Mike the First

    “i should perhaps mention that we often discover that looks may reflect something profoundly significant about a person.”

    That’s both shallow bunkum and a hoary old canard.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Not a bad ploy.

    Over the years I’ve known a few gay people of both genders and have been to a couple of gay civil partnerships.

    I’ve also got a cousin in Clare whose in a civil partnership, both of them are ‘lovely girls’ to quote Father Ted.

    I was proud when Ireland voted for same sex marriage, a triumph of kindness over years of religious intolerance.

    Ireland has changed enormously in the years that I’ve been going there, and mainly – if not totally – for the better..

    Back in the 50s I witnessed lives ruined because some poor girl got pregnant and was forced to leave and have the baby adopted.

    Went to a cousins wedding last month held in church with a full Catholic mass. She and her husband had been living together for some time and she is a school teacher!

    Different world now and mainly the better for it.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh dear, hit some nerve have we? Well if you’ve ever painted someone’s portrait, or even spent a little time intellegently in the National Portrait Gallery perhaps, the truth of how the representation of how someone’s appearance can offer profound insights into a persons character and motive becomes quite apparent, unless, perhaps, you have been blessed with little or no visual sensitivity whatsoever.

    Ah, I get it, a few thousand years of portraiture has no psychological foundation whatsoever, just shallow, skin deep, bunkum! Rembrandt, for example was wasting his time with all those self portraits, and his admirers should be made aware that the insights they believed were encapsulated in his work were simply “shallow bunkum.” Right. I think you really need to develop a serious argument here instead of simply slapping down the shallow bunkum of crass personal opinion without even beginning to think such opinion through.

    You have only to look analytically at the way Gerry Scarfe uses the personal appearance of politicians in his Swiftian “sæva Indignatio” against their lethal follies, or how my old friend Marc could bring out an entire psychological profile of someone such as the late Lord Bannside with a few well placed lines. And, just one example more, take the case of Donald Trump, “You can’t judge a book by its cover”, or a man by how what the he says will effect the general public seemingly, but how Donald must think about that comb over says a great deal about just how much he must believe he can get away with in misleading a gullible public…….

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I could not agree more. Still a way to go in the wee six, but steady progress away from those benighted times.

  • Ernst Blofeld

    Didn’t know Jesus taught his disciples to buy up property with other people’s money… then play the old market and make a killing…Arlene foster…a Christian…wind yer neck in.

  • Ernst Blofeld

    How long does this farce go on let’s get this straight the adjustment bureau decides who “LEADS” these so called political parties.
    Just like robbo she has the required skeletons to fit the bill..just like all the leaders. If the bureau decides a politician is not towing their line..he gets it..just ask poor old robbie cooks family. But who controls this bureau.who controls the controllers..why not investigate what the leaders who wouldnt toe the line said bout who they were..lincoin..Kennedy… Napoleon.. Cromwell..Andrew Jackson…Jefferson..read up and WAKE UP

  • Ernst Blofeld

    I see you can’t post the truth about political reps on this site…but its OK to waffle on bout aloud of crap and go completely off topic.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Just a little support for what I’m suggesting about Arlene:

    http://www.brianjohnspencer.com/showcase/arlene-foster-mla/

    Just perfect, how BJS gets the way Arlene’s eyes seldom look anything but aggrieved no matter what the rest of her face may be saying…………

  • kalista63

    Ahh, the woman who sas on Spotlight last year supporting a ,pavement to stop Keffliks buyingrerty and who betrayed Jim Allister because his wife’s family, I think it was, property to taigywaigys.

    This is some progress.

  • Jollyraj

    Oh my, what high standards you have for Christians. By that logic there’d be about a dozen ‘true’ believers in the whole country.

  • Ernst Blofeld

    Couldn’t have seen Jesus working for the adjustment bureau either….of course Jesus was set up by Jewish leaders and killed by Rome…and these so called powers are still doing each others dirty work till this very day..the rest of us are just collateral damage in their dirty little fake wars…

  • Ernst Blofeld

    There is that of course…but then I don’t see any of the shinners bring up her property deals or that she works for the bureau…of course anybody with half a brain knows they ALL work for the Casper’s

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I was always brought up not to judge by appearances … I’ve learned that appearances can indeed tell you a lot, but I still think judging people by them is a tendency to be fought whenever possible. It imposes itself rather too much on us.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I think that has potential, Nevin, you should copyright it

  • Nevin

    Sam McBride’s perspective:

    With no contest and a fairly discreet political past, Mrs Foster’s leadership will, for the foreseeable future, carry a certain enigmatic quality.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    As I say below to Mike the First, MU (check it out), try telling that one about being “always brought up not to judge by appearances” to Rembrandt! Try an image search with his name if you are in any doubt about just how deep an insight appearances can provide. “Appearances” perhaps needs some serious qualification. While it’s foolish to judge simply at a glance, is this really how you’d evaluate the work of Victor Weisz (“Vicky”), Cecil Beaton, Karl Arnold, David Low, Otto Dix, George Grosz, Erich Schilling, Jean Cocteau, Walter Sickert, etc? But what are all these people (and many thousands more all the way back to Hogarth) working with if not “appearances”? So you may take a superficial skim of an appearance, as the average punter does, or you can train your eye to pick deep psychological insights out of them by looking harder. But it’s still “appearances” that are the raw material. The “superficiality” is entirely in the way the onserver percieves something, not in what complexities of character may be seen by someone actually looking.

    As a portraitist (what I earn my bread at nowadays) one draws a great deal of the inner person out of appearance. There would be little point in going to all that trouble of sittings and often months of work if a snapshot could analyse character as sensitively as the trained professional eye of a visual artist. I’ve been caricaturing since school in the 1960s and during my career I’ve been working with and around some of the most talented caricaturists of my generation. This has pretty much burnt out any doubts I could ever have about not “judging a book by its cover”, especially if that “cover” has been drawn by the likes of Gerry Scarfe!

    And hey! Arlene’s default aggrieved angry look, which seems to never leave her eyes (if you look at her on video), is a most eloquent window on what appears to be her approach to the world around her, there on public display for anyone ready to grasp just how often the facial expressions tellingly reveal the person’s inner psychology. It’s what people say that you can’t trust, that they can usually control. Peter Robinson and McConnell being a very rare case of the public man carefully constructed from crafted pronouncements being momentarily suspended. The actual face and body gestures are usually a dead gave away of the true person. The hidden psychology they reveal is never just skin deep.

    As an example of just how minimalist and yet utterly telling this can be I’d recommend the work of my old friend the late “Marc”:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-news/11354730/Mark-Boxer-the-witty-caricaturist-of-Fleet-Street.html

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “Prosperity Theology”:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosperity_theology

    A “Christian” perhaps, who are we to say, but seemingly on her own terms, and even as one who possibly believes that “Mammon” could be one of the many titles and names of the Deity…………..

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Absolutely correct Jollyraj, “true believers” similar in moral intention to such as St Francis, and, lets say it, Christ himself……….yes, you’re probably correct, a dozen, perhaps less. Just where does it say you are entirely free to “pick and mix” from those easier virtues you find more convenient to success in a corrupt world? The old joke about finding the eleventh commandment (“pick any two”) is just that, a joke.

    What does His boy actually say:

    https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew+19%3A16-19%3A30&version=NKJV

    I frequently notice just how most part time “Christians” carefully select their pet bible texts to avoid such onerous injunctions, or in the case of “Prosperity Theology” even take symbolic images such as the Talents parable literally. Christianity, if it is to mean anything more than simply being a “team supporter” must not simply be a one day a week affair enacted to facilitate some trade-off with God (“if I can get away with this, let me offer you this, this and this”). The demands of what used to be called a genuine “Christian life” are entirely inconsistent with the moral climate of the modern political or commercial world. So it depends on just how freely you yourself use the term “Christian”…………

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “Arlene’s Style”

    I used to go to these meetings to discuss a brilliant and original film project where some “money man” would start saying “I saw such and such a film a month back and they had such and such a scene that would work”, and so on and on until the script turned into a collage of pastiche borrowings. I’d imagine that the similarities between Arlene and the late baroness T are no accident. Originality requires a creative imagination, but its so much easier to simply enact a form of “political Karaoke”.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you kevin for a valuable link. While I’m no fan (“gross understatement “?) of the old DUP political “rootstock”, I cannot avoid the last chapter of “Animal Farm” rising up unbidden as a read this. What was the old Paisley Party ever really for if Arlene is simply going to graft a few withered “Alliance” branches onto the old stock? And why did she actually leave the more moderate UUP for a party rooted in extremism other than for its ability to deliver a safe seat? I know that the modern political approach globally is to be “all things to all people” (excellent marketing wisdom to ensure maxing out on votes) but how does this actually work in practice? You cannot both deliver to Liberal Modernists and to those potential TUV voters who stubbornly support the DUP as some attenuated expression still of the older party ideology of the late “Dr No”. This is a real “lie on your belly with your toes in the air” vision of Arlene’s opening up a Golden Future. Who is going to be gulled here, for someone certainly is.

  • Nevin

    The Westminster and Stormont contexts are very different, Seaan. Arlene appears in several of my NALIL blogs – [just do a ‘foster’ search] – and she seems canny enough to have a phalanx of officials to act as a buffer should she need to move move from ‘minded’ to ‘unminded’.

  • Nevin

    Seaan, I think Sam McBride is one of the more perceptive commentators on pan-unionism.

    The DUP and SF are the parties to go to if you want to get some relief from bureaucratic bungling or bullying; if they’re not minded to assist there’s always the TUV, a party that likes to sink its teeth into portrayed softer aspects of unionism. The two large parties exercise strong central control and the leaderships receive enthusiastic and loyal support from their ‘troops’. The UUP is trying to bring more discipline to its membership and to build its community outreach; I think the SDLP is still lagging in these aspects. I need to qualify my observations by saying that they are influenced by my experiences on the north coast.

    Westminster has bigger fish to fry and unionists will know from bitter experience that it can’t be relied on to support them in the unionist-nationalist tussle. Leinster House will lobby for pan-nationalism in NI affairs but will put the boot into SF closer to home. I should imagine that Arlene will attempt to foster [sic] dissension in pan-nationalism by making some positive noises in conjunction with Leinster House.

    The position of First Minister has symbolic rather than practical significance so I’d expect her to go fishing in the UUP pool, whilst giving Jim Allister the occasional slap with a cold fish.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’m still seeing a lot of “Political karaoke” and not just from Arlene, but then, as the old saw has it “monkey see, monkey do!’

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “The two large parties exercise strong central control and the leaderships receive enthusiastic and loyal support from their ‘troops’.”

    Indeed, its what I get castigated for calling “voting by standing order” where no matter what the party says or does they get the votes automatically, and the “troops” are assured a rather more secure future in their memory foam seats. But I think the point still stands, someone is being gulled here………….

  • kalista63

    Ya feker, you just reminded me of Thatcher’s misinterpretation of the camel. the rich man and the eye of the needle, a sensation akin to watching Jaa Jaa Binks for the first time.

    A friend of mine, a Passionist priest, once told me that an early christian group were known by a term that roughy translated as communists.

    I worked with many fundamentalist xixstians and one of them was the daughter of a well known N Belfast businessman. Turns out that he also does a sideline in loans to the poor with rates that are mental.

    As for the DUP and heir Lex Luthor like obsession with property, from Seymour Sweeney to Frazier to fracking sites in our most beautiful areas, their disregard for G_d’s gifts and denial of our abuser of them betrays them as lovers of nothing but, as a Roman centurion observed, themselves

  • kalista63

    Bit off topic but will the DUP and the Orange Order be campaining for justice for Richie McKinnie?

    Is the structure of unionism built on such a sandy foundation that even the slightest questioning of the State is not to be tolerated? What now, when Jeffrey Donaldson drags bodies from the grave to bash SF? How can he or Arlene call the IRA to account but not those who murdered and defamed innocent unionists, especially when the name of his killer is known?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I’m not disagreeing with you on ‘leakage’ (where body language or unintended comments give away what we’re really thinking). Just saying that while the face gives clues, it’s not the whole story either. But look I’m an art lover and of course I admire how the best artists can capture the spirit of a person visually. I’d just be wary of people’s character being judged on the basis of the looks they were born with. That is the other, rather mediaeval, side of it. You have to take account of both.

  • Nevin

    But what about the National Landscape Gallery [jpg], Seaan?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    You’re really not getting this, are you, MU? “The looks they were born with” are hardly some kind of static mask. They are in continual flux, and the mind is exposed constantly through facial expression and gesture, not through some secret “leakage” alone but through the continual expressiveness that actually “is” the person we know, and something that displays that person’s thoughts 24/7 to anyone actually looking analytically. It is only a dead face that will lack these articulations which constantly change facial expression with the flow of thought, and this is why someone in a coffin never really looks quite like the person we knew. What Marc (for example) gets in a few lines is how a very particular cast of mind, the “person”, articulates features, although he was not averse to an occasional telling prop such as the condom he hung from Martin Amis’s nose in one cartoon ( I could say more….)

    But regarding the kind of person who will judge from superficials (what you seem to be talking about), if they are denied a person’s looks through PC they will always find something else to”other” different people with. Traditionally in the Wee Six it has been customary to find something such as politics or religion to qualify someone as “themuns” but the more enterprising can easily find any number of quite unexpected “markers’ that make virtually anyone, anywhere “themuns” and physical appearence is the very least of it!

    To me this superficial habit of social hatred is something in its essence very different from the characaturist’s Swiftian “sæva Indignatio” against the lethal follies of those “fools and knaves” who are vain enough to put themsleves up for election in a very public local proof of the old adage that if someone actually wants to rule over you, they are probably the last people who should be encouraged to stand. The visual critique from the great characaturists (such as Gerry Scarfe, Steve Bell or David Low) is just as penetrating to my thinking as pages and pages of analysis.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Your Passionist Priest was perfectly correct. Anyone without self-deception who actually took the bible seriously would probably end up naked and cashless, like St Francis of Assisi. For me the rest are prevaricating, along the lines of St. Augustine’s “Lord make me chaste (or any other “moral”) but not yet……………”

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The very last landscapes I considered painting had Ballylumford in the far distance, just as a reminder that the idyll is long over…….

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I think I get it more than you realise, Seann. I agree with you on portraiture, cartoon and caricature etc, I thought I had made that clear. All I’m saying is the visual artist’s route to insight, while suited to doing what it does, is only one of many channels for eliciting a person’s truths. A face can’t possibly carry them all, or even all that many. The artist, I guess, needs to have something that makes sense artistically and this urge, rightly for art, supersedes any evaluative role. It doesn’t have to be fair or balanced or ‘real’, not can it be for the art to work as art. All I’m saying is, never forget the sides of people that do not make for artistic depiction can nevertheless be important. Art and psychology overlap but serve different masters.

    I guess what I’m saying is no work of art can capture the complete person, just a fragment of them – which is fine and all in a sense that is possible. No other discipline can either by the way. But all of us assaying the person in different ways should be humble as to how far any one method can take you.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    MU, all knowledge is partial and fragmentary, and I’d question the validity of any “final solution” summation of all and everything by any method. Hey, only the “complete person” him (or her) self can even essay an attempt to “capture the compete person” as only they have the inside information, but a most extraordinary amount of insight can be accessed through non-textual methods, things that are simply not manageable with the limitations of verbal expression. These things use appearance.

    And I’d question that there is very much that cannot in some manner be expressed visually. I used to run a “visual literacy” course at QUB, and occasionally showed “The Ipcress file” silently, asking people to let me know when they could not make some sense of it from the images alone. It was telling just how very far we could get into the film……..

    I’m also confused, as a rather analytic imagination, at your suggestion that “The artist, I guess, needs to have something that makes sense artistically and this urge, rightly for art, supersedes any evaluative role.” I evaluate everything, and I mean everything, in my work, including that ongoing fight to make paint hold somehow the essence of what I’m experiencing with all my senses and my “evaluative” response to what I’m experiencing. I suppose perhaps you are thinking of visual art along the lines of Duchamp’s much quoted expression, “Stupid like a painter”…………but not all of us are really all that stupid……

    As a trained Jungian therapist I’d also question that these things “serve different masters” as you say, as both should primarily serve truth (whatever that is).

    Getting back to your first point however, “but I still think judging people by [appearances] is a tendency to be fought whenever possible. It imposes itself rather too much on us.” I’d still think this pretty much rejects the insights of the great wave of visual satire that has developed in Europe since Hogarth. I’d feel that these satiric visual essays often throw strong light on aspects beyond what simple words can express, and this is scarcely be too much of an imposition for anyone open to new epiphanic insights……….

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I wasn’t thinking along Duchamp’s lines. If I believe in anything out there, as an atheist, it’s in the power of ‘the arts’ to make life meaningful. But I guess I have lost some faith in the idea I once had of the artist as quasi-shamanic truth-teller. That goes for literature (I write myself) as much as the visual arts. I am having a bit of a crisis of faith just now. It may be I’ve just been too busy and haven’t spent enough time reading good writing and seeing great art of late.

    I don’t doubt your art and that of many good artists is highly analytical. But I see a genuine tension between the kind of analysis of a human being necessary for producing good art – which I’d summarise as tending towards great depth but in highly selective areas – and analysis that produces the fullest possible truth. The truth can be quite dull, if we’re honest. And that does not make for good art.

    This bring us back to Northern Ireland, where the depiction of the Troubles is a case in point. The grim, dull reality of most of what happened does not make for entertainment. People don’t want to watch what the Troubles really was – short bursts of violence, tick, but the many years of unspectacular grieving afterwards, cross, the people just getting on with their everyday lives, cross.

    A film like The Hunger is a stark illustration of the conflict of interest between art and truth. The film worked as art and would have been admirable had the characters and setting been fictional. The widespread praise for the film was on that basis. But the problem was, McQueen has an artist’s eye for the truth. Artists have the liberty to explore partial truths; their analysis need not be comprehensive or balanced, indeed that is the inimical to good art. McQueen’s analysis of the death of Sands was of a nature to create a great piece of art; but inadequate to tell the truth of its subject. To tell a story in which the central character is a prime mover in a sophisticated terrorist organisation that has murdered hundreds, with a nationalistic and sectarian ideology, who opts to starve himself to death for that ideology, misses his truth if it focuses on him to the exclusion of the innocent lives his organisation wrecked. As McQueen himself summed up: “I’m not concerned with balance.”

    This is quite right for art – art is not about balance. But it’s a problem: the visual image is extremely powerful and films like The Hunger play more of a role in shaping people’s views on what happened than the thorough, earnest, dull history books that actually get closest to the truth.

    I always cite it, but if you haven’t read it, try and get hold of a book by Prof Brian McIlroy written I think in the 90s, “Shooting to Kill”. It shows how skewed an idea of Northern Ireland in the Troubles years the viewer of the output of film artists gets. Artists, even apolitical ones, are not trained to be rigorous with themselves in challenging their own assumptions and agendas. Rather, they are trained to go with their gut. Great for art, bad for fair analysis.

    The result is that artists largely friendly to Irish nationalism produce material that elides and belittles Ulster British experience. As John Bew put it once, Protestants appear only in uniform. I could add, stoney-faced and humourless at that; arrogant, brutal. Recognisable humanity – loving, laughing, lives of colour – are associated only with nationalist characters or, better still, Protestants who come to reject their community in favour of the nationalist worldview. This is a nationalist caricature (to come back to those) of us, not the reality of people and life that I have experienced. If this kind of ethnic stereotyping were done to any other ethnic group, there would be outrage. But it happens to us and its wrongness barely registers. Why? Films like McQueen’s are deemed to be good art, to tell “a truth”. Perhaps so; but if so, it highlights the problems with giving too much prominence to artistic truth-telling within the wider culture.

    This whole discussion went back to how much we could say about Arlene Foster from looking at her face. We both agree quite a lot – but for me I just urge caution. People are like icebergs in that what you can see is significant, but most of the action is hidden below the surface. But I’m sure you’d agree with that, I don’t think we’re actually a million miles apart on all this.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you, MU, for a long and most thoughtful reply. As you say towards the end “We both agree quite a lot”, and I can but agree with you on much of the simplification that marks films on the troubles. I remember straining with just I’d have shot, for example, “the Wind that Shakes the Barley” very, very differently, even though I have great respect

    But Its my experience that the arts have no limitations that can be easily ruled on. Extraordinary books such as Clarendon’s “Great Rebellion”, or Thomas Carte’s biography of “Ormonde” seem to be both sound history and great literary works together. And Proust’s insight leaves nothing to be desired psychologically or truthfully as well as aesthetically.

    My own experiences of the DUP (from she time back, my best friend’s brother stood alongside Paisley for election in the early days) suggest that you may be reading a great deal into these people than may actually be there when you say “most of the action is hidden below the surface”. I’m regularly reminded of Charles II’s comments on trying to plumb the depths of his nephew-in-law Prince George of Denmark “I’ve tried the man drunk and sober and there’s nothing i him either way.” And he had much the same thing to say about his other nephew-in-law, the Prince of Orange-Nassau. With Arlene, the proof will be in what she does and in how she handles the increasingly marginalised group of (n every sense) “fundamentalists” within the party. I’m afraid I do not feel she has the depth of sensitivity to carry off a serious change in leadership style and content without haemorrhaging support to the TUV and even UKIP. That aggrieved look she seems entirely unable to loose ever suggests someone on the defensive, a woman in a party that has something of the atmosphere of men only rooms, and is almost as telling a characteristic as Donald Trump’s comb-over, which exposes just how much he knows he can get away with.

  • Jollyraj

    Fair enough. I suppose you’d make much the same comments about, say, Muslims or Hindus?

  • John Collins

    Can you recall what Paisley said about Brian Cowen?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh yes. oh yes………no discrimination whosoever on holding people to the standards of the faith they profess…..

  • Jollyraj

    Grand. Well, given that you consider the lion’s share of Christians, Muslims & Hindus to be in essence religious fakers, do you also consider atheists hypocrits for celebrating Christmas?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Has not Christmas primarily been re-dedicated to Mammon?

    I take it from your tone that you are an eleventh commandment man, with a pick and mix approach. There’s an old New England quip you may just have missed, “It would suit most of humanity if God were a rogue……..”

  • Jollyraj

    You take it wrong.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I genuinely apologise if I’m making assumptions. Short exchanges
    seldom reveal enough for a serious discussion, such as this issue really merits. And seriously, while I realise no-one can live faultlessly in the world, there is seldom any effort made by politicians to reach those standards of transparent probity in public life that an electorate should expect from its representatives, let alone those standards any seriously committed Christian should aspire to. I’m suggesting the standards of the “eleventh commandment” with some levity here, but I continue to be contemptuous of Sunday Christians who present as devout one day of the week and spend the rest abusing neighbors, lying and financially cheating anyone foolish enough to do business with them, evident examples of such selective morality.

    I have seen nothing in any of the front ranks of the DUP, let alone Arlene herself, that gives me any confidence that their ability to reconcile serious Christian moral standards with the public exercise of power. But I fully realise that those in the party must present as Christians to ensure the votes of many who support them without looking deeper than the surface “graphic” presented, even if their genuine political concerns are with money rather than with religion.

  • Nevin

    Seaan, my attention has just been drawn to The Blame Game’s Review of 2015. Here’s a snippet from the transcript:

  • Nevin
  • SeaanUiNeill

    “Catching like wildfire”……..

    It is the fate of all creative people to find their ideas in the mouths of those others who would be praised for what they have not engendered. Congratulation! And thank you Nevin, for the link below.

    However, regarding Arlene and her predecessor, I’m still entirely with my eighteenth century Jacobite compatriot:

    “Where it the whole generation,
    So much better for the nation…”

    But since it’s just Peter………although I still find some very good, honest, upright people supporting the Union, such as my recently deceased cousin in Fermanagh, and of course yourself. Just not usually connected to the DUP……..

  • Nevin