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Election posters: Which Northern Ireland candidates are topping the poles?

Published 30/04/2015

Gemma Weir of the Workers Party
Gemma Weir of the Workers Party

Malachi O'Doherty and Frances Burscough run the rule over some of the faces smiling down on us this election

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Mairtin 0 Muilleoir

Sinn Fein, South Belfast

MALACHI ON MAIRTIN:

This isn’t the Mairtin we saw as Lord Mayor of Belfast. Then the branding was casual; he was one of the In Crowd. This image is more sober, even more sombre. He looks like he might be a presidential candidate, which is ironic given that his own party president wears woolly scarves and grins a lot.

He looks bold and thrusting and yet he has tired eyes. He is looking at something just in front of him.

I think Mairtin is trying to show his dependable side here. I imagine he is saying, “I’m not really a Shinner at heart. I might be standing against a green backdrop, but my colours are red, white and blue.”

FRANCES ON MAIRTIN:

Now, I met Mairtin a few times when he was Lord Mayor and he’s a lovely, likeable bloke, but dear God, what was he thinking with this poster? All I can say is sack the stylist. But, then, there clearly wasn’t one.

It’s the messiest, most confusing poster design of them all — and that is certainly saying something.

Whose idea was it for Mr O to wear red, white and blue to represent Sinn Fein? Not only does it send across mixed messages, but it clashes catastrophically with the tricolour combo of orange, white and green.

Symbolic and ironic that may very well be to sage onlookers, but the overall impression is of complete chaos.

As for the frown, it’s not attractive and makes him look angry.

Meanwhile, the white headline title is almost lost against the light green background and the subtitle is unreadable, which effectively renders it pointless.

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Gemma Weir

Workers Party, North Belfast

MALACHI ON GEMMA:

Gemma Weir has got the image right. The hair probably cost a bob or two, but makes her look as if she has just stepped out of the shower and got straight to work.

Since she hasn’t a chance of winning, she could fruitfully sell her services to the other candidates.

On teeth and eyes, she is right up there with Jo-Anne, but she beats her flat on looking like she thinks more than she plays.

FRANCES ON GEMMA:

Nobody likes austerity, do they? So it’s only right that the party whose slogan is “Standing against austerity” should have a stunning, raven-haired temptress with a come-hither smile as its poster girl.

If I had to change one thing, I would have suggested Gemma wore a crisp red jacket, rather than a heavy Donegal tweed coat, which is unseasonal, and the shoulder pads are a bit top-heavy.

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Jo-Anne Dobson

UUP, Upper Bann

MALACHI ON JO-ANNE:

Jo-Anne Dobson looks as if she has just come off the ski slope and is dying to get back there. She is one of the few to appear genuinely happy, but you might wonder if what makes her happy is really the prospect of serving her constituents.

See how the lip gloss seems to catch the glow off her cheeks. She’s a girly girl. But is she an MP? The poster doesn’t even address the question.

FRANCES ON JO-ANNE:

This poster is less Upper Bann and more Upper East Side; more Southfork than South Down. The UUP have clearly taken a leaf out of the American Republican Party’s stylebook, but in my opinion it just does not suit the party it represents.

That dazzling white smile, California tan and sun-streaked highlights could not be less representative of Northern Ireland folk and it certainly does not suggest the UUP.

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Naomi Long

Alliance, East Belfast

MALACHI ON NAOMI:

Naomi is a good-looking woman. The camera likes her. But there is something a little conflicted going on here.

That fiery red hair is priceless. She gets away with it, because it is nature’s endowment. But that necklace? It makes her look as if she has just nipped out of a grand ball to lend us a few moments of her time.

She also needed a good night’s sleep before the shoot.

FRANCES ON NAOMI:

I admire Naomi; she’s endured a lot over the last few months and has always remained strong and feisty, yet dignified. Plus, she’s a friend of mine on Facebook, so I’d hate to offend her.

However, in my opinion, this poster does not do her justice or represent her effectively in any way. It looks cheap and tacky, like something that’s been thrown together by a budget printers for a favour.

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Claire Bailey

Green Party, South Belfast

MALACHI ON CLAIRE:

Claire Bailey of the Green Party has gone for the glam look, more Caroline Lucas than Natalie Bennett.

The plunging neckline is a great idea. On her right side it looks as if it has been manually arranged to meet the photographer’s conception of optimal exposure. You can just hear him saying, “Just a bit wider there, dear”. I’d like to see him try that one on with Naomi.

FRANCES ON CLAIRE:

As much as I admire the ethos of the Green Party, I’m unimpressed and disappointed with this poster for a number of reasons, but mainly because it’s a mess.

Claire Bailey is a stunningly attractive woman, but why has she been styled like a soap opera star circa 1980? The picture they have chosen looks like it has been taken on a night out down the town, clubbing with the girls.

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Gavin Robinson

DUP, East Belfast

MALACHI ON GAVIN:

Gavin can’t smile. Perhaps he shouldn’t try. And his eyes look as if they have been polished up with Brasso. He actually looks quite scary. He has teeth that look as if they were never intended for eating with.

This is probably how his mother sent him off to church, but it would be more reassuring if he had some small, distinguishing feature to suggest he had outgrown her solicitous grooming.

None of this is fair to Gavin, who is quite personable, but the injustice is done by the photographer and by his own submission to bad guidance.

One way to demonstrate his resolve and spirit would have been to refuse to get into the box labelled “clean, respectable Protestant”, who has never blown bubbles with gum — let alone smoked dope.

FRANCES ON GAVIN:

Personally, I’m no fan of the DUP, so it galls me slightly to say that this is the most professional-looking poster of the elections.

It has obviously been very well thought-out; it is clear, decisive and balanced. Gavin Robinson has made a concerted effort to dress appropriately in a smart suit and tie.

His photograph is very clear and sharp and it looks to me like it might even have been Photoshopped, very subtly, to give him whiter teeth, clearer skin and brighter eyes.

Either that or he’s extraordinarily well-groomed.

As for his expression, it says: “I’m friendly, I’m approachable and I’m certainly not a bigoted old fuddy-duddy”.

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Timothy Gaston

TUV North Antrim

MALACHI ON TIMOTHY:

Timothy Gaston has gone for smug. This, he thinks, is the look that will win us over. It isn’t just smug smug; it’s a smirky smug.

Who advises these people? Was there no one on hand to say that, if getting your picture taken for a poster is worth doing, then it is worth choosing the image with care?

Timothy is no doubt a fine man, who has been failed by his branding people, but he looks like he didn’t even shave for the picture.

Looking exhausted, like Naomi, or Mairtin, is forgiveable. Looking brimful of energy like Jo-Anne raises questions about whether you will ever really have your mind on work.

FRANCES ON TIMOTHY:

Timothy Gaston is a good-looking guy, that’s for sure. Heck, I’d click “like” if he was on a dating website, based on that photograph. But I definitely wouldn’t vote for him based on that poster.

It reminds me of when my son was in primary school and his homework was to design and draw a tempting sandwich from an imaginary menu. He wanted to watch telly, so he just drew three horizontal lines on top of each other and wrote bread/ham/bread. This poster is about as inspired as that was.

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Alasdair McDonnell

SDLP, South Belfast

MALACHI ON ALASDAIR:

Alasdair looks giddily happy. Someone has worked hard to create an image that counters his famous grumpiness and has succeeded. But it’s a kind of cryptic giddiness.

Look hard at that face and try to imagine what sort of joke would evoke that expression. He has the look of those grey-haired old men who appear in ads for insurance and pension schemes, reassuring you that you can be young forever.

The effect on Alasdair is to convey the impression that he has just changed into something he’s not.

If he turned up on the doorstep smiling like that, you’d wonder if he was having a wee turn and call an ambulance.

FRANCES ON ALASDAIR:

There's nothing particularly wrong about this poster design, but there’s nothing particularly right, either.

I’m sure that, in preparation, Mr McD (probably) had a shower and shave, combed his hair, brushed his teeth and that was that — he was good to go. I’m guessing the “design process” involved an A4 sheet of white paper on which they simply plonked the party logo next to his photo and then stuck his name at the bottom.

Then, at the last minute, they realised it all looked a bit too red, white and blue for the SDLP, so they added a completely pointless strapline of the party colours at the top. At a wonky angle, like, but sure...

Aye. It’s nothing fancy. There’s none of your Photoshop special effects nonsense. It just “does exactly what it says on the tin” nothing more and nothing less.

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Gerry Carroll

People Before Profit Alliance, West Belfast

MALACHI ON GERRY:

Gerry Carroll looks like a good, sound proletarian. He might not sort out the economy, but he could probably strip your engine.

He looks a bit worried. That red tint in his cheeks could be a contrived suggestion of socialist passion; or it could be that the photographer fouled up the white balance.

FRANCES ON GERRY:

As a relatively new and obscure party in Northern Ireland, I’m sure that the People Before Profit Alliance publicity budget is minuscule, so, all things considered, this is a perfectly good poster.

It’s also in keeping with the party and its ethos that he should be dressed-down like a genuine worker, rather than tailored by Savile Row like a “fat cat” boss.

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