Belfast Telegraph

Contrasting looks for Foster and O'Neill day when all eyes focused on Stormont

By Lindy McDowell

Early in the day UTV's Ken Reid had tweeted a picture of the assembled throng of news media at Stormont with the tongue-in-cheek caption "Something happening?" Something happening indeed! We are back on the brink. And we all know what that means...

Lights, cameras (many cameras), action!

The eyes of the world - well, those not focused on Washington's inauguration preparations anyway - are once again upon us. And don't our politicians know it?

It would be naive to think that before they headed out yesterday morning for this latest date with destiny - and accompanying camera lenses - they didn't put just that little extra thought into how they looked.

Did Arlene deliberately decide to go for a softer look?

Her trademark dark Hobbs suit with its white trim as strident as a highlighted paragraph in a ministerial brief had been consigned to the wardrobe for this outing. And no sign of her usual crown brooch.

Instead, she had opted for a whiter shade of pale. Perhaps to denote serenity.

By contrast Michelle O'Neill, tipped by some as the new Sinn Fein leader in the Executive Office, had opted for a resplendent shade of look-at-me red. The make-up, as ever, was impeccable too. No shrinking violet there.

Is it sexist to focus on, and compare, the wardrobe choices of the two women who might end up sharing that aforementioned First Ministers' office? Possibly.

But let's not kid ourselves that either threw on the first thing that came to hand yesterday morning. Politicians, particularly at times of major media interest, do not work that way.

Male politicians included.

Yesterday the seriously-suited gents of all parties appeared to have opted for a cross-party consensus of jutted jaw. There were more clenched faces surrounding Arlene as she read her statement to the cameras than in a Steven Seagal action thriller.

Conor Murphy, meanwhile, was doing John Wayne in True Grit. James Brokenshire, Secretary of State, was suddenly, unexpectedly centre stage too. He'd pulled out a jazzy tie for the occasion. Maybe he wears them all the time. Who's to say? Until now we haven't seen a lot of the man.

But what we can say with some certainty is that in times of crisis, how they look to the public, how they come across in the media, is a matter of prime concern to politicians.

So yesterday (and we can expect more of this in the days ahead) considerable care will have gone into preparation.

Who is to tell them that right now the lot of them don't look all that great in our eyes?

Belfast Telegraph


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