Northern Ireland

New silent video exhibition captures key players behind Good Friday Agreement

Gary McMichael, Ulster Democratic Party (UDP), pictured with his portrait. Image by Darren Kidd, Press Eye.
Gary McMichael, Ulster Democratic Party (UDP), pictured with his portrait. Image by Darren Kidd, Press Eye. Gary McMichael, Ulster Democratic Party (UDP), pictured with his portrait. Image by Darren Kidd, Press Eye.

A new art installation featuring video portraits of the key players behind the Good Friday Agreement will open this week in Rathfriland.

The inspiration for artist Amanda Dunsmore’s new work, Agreement, started while working as the artist in residence at the Maze Prison during the 1990s.

Then Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam visited loyalist prisoners in January 1998 in an effort to keep their support for the peace process.

Ms Dunsmore, an Ulster University School of Art alumna, said the extraordinary meeting set her long-term project in motion.

“Mo took an unprecedented step for a secretary of state – that act deeply impressed me and the people of Northern Ireland, so Mo Mowlam is the main inspiration for starting this body of work,” she said.

“It really made me wish I could, by making an artwork, acknowledge these individuals, these representatives of communities who had made the miracle of agreement.

Tony Blair with Mo Mowlam. Picture by Peter Jordan/PA
Tony Blair with Mo Mowlam. Picture by Peter Jordan/PA Tony Blair with Mo Mowlam. Picture by Peter Jordan/PA

She said the effect of silent portraits on audiences was notable.

“You come in with the understanding that these individuals are always imparting information, always animated and talking but when you’re given the silent other half of the individual it gives this quite deep effect”.

Other notable figures include Nobel Laureates John Hume and David Trimble as well as Monica McWilliams, Pearl Sagar and Gary McMichael from the Ulster Democratic Party.

Following a run at Ulster University after the Good Friday Agreement’s 25th anniversary, the exhibition is now being taken to communities across Northern Ireland.

Dr Paul Mullan, Director, Northern Ireland, at The National Lottery Heritage Fund: “This is a unique project which attempts to look at the Good Friday Agreement from the perspective of heritage and through the prism of an artist’s response to what we have learnt from it.

“This is all the more important at a time in which questions are being asked about the Good Friday Agreement and how well it serves us today. So, it is good to go back to look at the reasons for its inception if only to remind us of how far we have come and how much we have achieved in those 25 years since 1998.”

The exhibition will be open to the public this Thursday from 12pm to 10pm in Chandler’s House, Church Square, Rathfriland and from 8am to noon on Friday.

Further information is available by contacting agreementexhibit@gmail.com.