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Troubled Images

The Writing on the Wall
Dr Gordon Gillespie

Thirty Years of Troubled Images
Robert Bell Northern Ireland Political Collection Librarian 1986:
‘Every political confrontation which involves a battle for hearts and
minds must use propaganda. Posters, leaflets, the covers of
pamphlets, cards and records all attempt to encapsulate a simple
message, clearly presented which will provoke immediate

Robert Bell with some of the posters in the
First Troubled Images exhibition Feb-Mar

Troubled Images 2001

NIPC Librarian Yvonne Murphy develops the
concept of Troubled Images:

Catalogue posters
Digitise material
Create CD-rom using digitised material
Select material for exhibition
Create Exhibition catalogue

Funding from: Dept of Culture, Arts and
Leisure; Proteus; United States Institute of
Peace with support from; the Community
Relations Council; the Belfast Society and
the Joseph Rowntree Trust

The Troubled Images Team 2000

Andy White, Ita Connolly and Allan Leonard take a rare

Troubled Images Exhibition: October 2001

Troubled Images 2008

Troubled Images book aimed at 1314 year old students using material
from Troubled Images CD-rom

Photo: Belfast Telegraph

Troubled Images i-book 2016

Troubled Images 2001 team choices: Yvonne

1970s NIO poster
featuring the cartoon
squirrel Tufty used for road
safety adverts. In this case
Tufty was used to warn
children away from empty
buildings. A similar poster
aimed at an adult
audience was also

Troubled Images team choices: Allan Leonard
A poster designed by Paula
to mark the visit of Bill Clinton to
Northern Ireland in late 1995.
The red, white and blue colours
red and white stripes on the
mimic the US flag and the
candle suggests a symbol of
hope for the future. Interestingly
the stars on the poster are six
sided – representing Northern
By 2000 the poster representing
Clinton’s final visit to Belfast as
President was much more

Troubled Images team choices: Gordon Gillespie

Contrasting depictions of
Official IRA member Joe
McCann who was shot
dead by British Army
members in 1972 in still
disputed circumstances.
Renowned poster artist
Jim FitzPatrick created a
romanticised version of
the Official Republican
poster presenting McCann
as a part Che Guevara,
part George Best figure.

Troubled Images team choices:
Kris Brown and Ciaran Crossey

An example of a poster using
soviet style imagery setting the
automatic rifle of the INLA beside
the ratchet of the IRSP – the
organisation’s political wing. The
poster emerged at the time of
the Good Friday Agreement when
the organisation felt that
traditional republican principles
were being set aside.

What Were They Thinking?

Attempts to provide an old format
with a fresh spin do not always work.
1998 Northern Ireland Assembly
election poster. Despite the illconsidered poster John Alderdice was
easily elected.

Troubled Images 2001 in Perspective

11 October 2001 Troubled
Images exhibition launched
a month after one of the
defining events of the
twenty-first century – 9/11.
October 2001 also sees:
US invasion of Afghanistan
IRA begins
decommissioning process
Apple releases iPod
Patriot Act becomes law in
the USA

International Aspects: Shepard Fairey: ‘Hope’ 2008

Arguably the most influential political
poster of the twenty-first century so
far. Created by artist Shepard Fairey in
early 2008.
‘I had screen-printed posters printed
immediately, sold 350 and put another
350 up on the street. We used the
money from selling the 350 to then
print up another 4,000 posters that are
the ones we gave out at those rallies
you mentioned.’ (Huffington Post
interview 13 November 2008)
A key image in Obama’s Presidential
election campaign. Spread rapidly
across the internet. Since then widely
copied and parodied.

Newcastle Herald 2016

The Australian newspaper The
Newcastle Herald responded to
the outcome on the US
Presidential election on 9
November 2016 by producing a
variation of the Obama poster on
its front page.

‘Hope’ Poster Imitation

Christchurch, New
Zealand 2013. Two
and a half years after
the February 2011
Protesters criticise
Earthquake Recovery
Minister Gerry
Brownlee and the
Commission (EQC) for
failing to help resolve
earthquake insurance
claims on homes.

New Zealand August 2015

15 August 2015 Anti- Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement
protesters in Queen Street Auckland. The poster was
located just left of the protesters in the photograph

Photo: New Zealand

Every Picture Tells A Story

June 2015 a poster in Belfast
highlights the issue of equal
rights in the area of

January 2016 an anarchist
poster draws parallels
between the attacks on Paris
and to international refugees
‘Refugees are fleeing the
same bombs. Open the
borders. Refugees are
welcome here. Stop wars not

Posters Advertising Political Meetings

Posters advertising
political meetings and
rallies have remained
largely unchanged –
except for the addition of
website addresses

Posters Provide Quick Response

Poster on a telephone kiosk
in Belfast city centre midNovember 2016
Jessica Spear stood for the
Socialist Alternative Party in
an election to the
Washington state House of
Representatives in 2014. She
lost to the incumbent
Democratic Party candidate
taking 17.7 percent of the

Assembly Election: Playing Personalities

A number of posters featured party leaders as a factor in
the Assembly election. The DUP in particular promoted
Arlene Foster as First Minister as a major plus factor in their
election campaign.

The Return of the Dinosaurs

In 1996 The NI Women’s
Coalition urged voters to
‘wave goodbye to dinosaurs.’
In the 2016 NI Assembly
election Labour candidates
returned to a similar theme.

Adding a Lighter Touch

A 2016 Assembly election poster
for Green Party candidate Ross
Brown resorts to punning that,
‘Brown is the new Green.’
Naomi Long plays on the ‘Ginger
Ninja’ tag asking electors to vote
‘Team Ninja’.
Long was elected and Brown was
the last candidate eliminated in
East Belfast.

Issues over Image

Gerry Carroll (People Before Profits)
provided one of the talking points of
the Assembly election by topping
the poll in West Belfast. A
traditional election poster with a
red background indicating the
candidate’s support for socialist
‘We always attempt to reach the
entire constituency, covering both
those seen to be “unionist” and
“nationalist” areas.  For example, in
West Belfast our posters were
erected along the Falls road and the
Shankill road, as well as all other
main arteries.’ M. Collins PBP

Image courtesy Matt Collins

Brexit Referendum

The June 2016
referendum on UK
membership of the
European Union was
characterised by
particularly dull posters

Brexit: Another View

In south Belfast SDLP Councillor
Declan Boyle attempted to provide a
more imaginative take on the Brexit
vote. He believed that, ‘The official
campaign to remain in the European
Union hasn't been vigorous enough
nor has it presented its message in
simple terms.’
In 2015 Cllr Boyle was ordered to
remove 15 anti-burglary posters he
had erected in the Ormeau Road
area or be charged £50 each for
their removal.

Easter 1916 Centenary

A series of republican posters commemorating the
centenary of the Easter Rising featured the signatories of
the Declaration of the Republic and other leading
republican figures of 1916

Easter 1916 Remembered

A Workers Party election poster
situated close to an Easter Rising
centenary poster commemorating
Irish Labour leader James Connolly

Easter 1916 Remembered

One of the series of posters
featured the less well known
figures of sisters Elizabeth and
Eleanor (Nell) Corr.
Their brothers George and Charles
Corr both fought in the British
Army in France in 1916.

The Somme Remembered 2016

Poster style placards were erected
close to the original home address
of many of those killed in the Battle
of the Somme.
As well as individual information
each poster features a poppy
image, photographs of some of
those killed at the Somme and a
copy of part of the painting of the
Battle of the Somme by JP Beadle.
At the bottom of each poster is a
modified version of the quotation
from John 15:13, ‘Greater love hath
no man than this, that a man lay
down his life for king and country.’
[his friends]

Controversies: Defacement

In 2010 Peter Robinson lost the East
Belfast Westminster seat he had held
since 1979. A factor in the result was
public unease at aspects of a property
deal in which Robinson bought land from
a developer for £5.
‘The deal allowed Mr Robinson and his
wife Iris to sell part of their back garden
for almost £460,000. But he never
included the strip, located 50 metres
from the back garden of their Gransha
Road home, on the Westminster register.
The land was the gateway to a proposed
housing scheme which included their
garden.’ (Belfast Telegraph 3 March 2010)
Political opponents of Robinson exploited
the issue by attaching a £5 sticker to
Robinson’s election poster.

Controversy: Loose Talk

A dissident republican poster
appeared on the Falls Road in
April 2016.
The 2016 poster was a virtual reprint of a 1981 poster produced
by the mainstream republican
movement at the time of the
Hunger strike.

‘People Should Not Inform’

Dissident republican posters displayed
in Donegall Place, Belfast city centre,
in May 2016 linking the Police Service
of Northern Ireland to MI5 and warning
not to give information to the police.
Response from Assistant Chief
Constable Will Kerr was:
‘They [dissident republicans] know
that the reason people within their
own communities won’t give
information to the police is because
they are scared. They work very hard
to threaten people in their
communities, they put up posters with
a clear unambiguous inference of
violence if people do go and tell the
police information.’
Belfast Live 2 June 2016

Controversial UDA Recruitment Poster

July 2016 this UDA recruitment poster
appeared on a road sign between
Newtownstewart and Sion Mills in Co.
Tyrone. The poster was widely
condemned as an attempt to stir up
The recent poster reflects a similar
tone to those produced in the 1970s.

Belfast Telegraph July

By 30 July 2016 ….

At the end of the month the Irish
News reported that the UDA poster
had been covered over by dissident
republican ones.
Derry and Strabane Sinn Féin
councillor Brian McMahon said the
‘don't really serve any purpose rather
than marking out territory. People will
chose whether to contact the PSNI or
not, that will be their choice.’
Irish News 30 July 2016
Irish News 30 July 2016

(IRPWA – Irish Republican Prisoners
Welfare Association)

Why Posters?

Why are posters still used?

A familiar format, quickly and
easily recognisable
Used for political advertising
and noting commemorations
Marking territory
Part of an ‘event’ – a ritual?
People expect to see publicly
displayed visual

Help re-inforce group identity
by depicting something
considered to be important

An Ongoing Collection

The Linen Hall Library continues
to collect political posters,
artefacts and emphemera.