Imagine! is now in its fifth year of bringing people from all walks of life together to talk about (mostly) small ‘p’ politics. It’s clearly not our business to tell people what to think or how to think it, but we do like to believe that we’ve been reasonably successful in facilitating discussion and debate, and encouraging new thinking about the issues that affect everyone in a huge way. So, with that in mind, what was this poster malarkey all about…?
Essentially, the whole point of our election poster campaign was to stimulate even more discussion – this time in public. We’d envisaged that they’d encourage debate on subjects like:
- How do we all feel about local politicians and the job they do? Especially when there’s been no functioning government here for over two years.
- Is it reasonable to tar all politicians with the same brush?
- What kinds of people become politicians and what are their motivations?
- At election time, do people actually pay attention to political advertising?
- If you always vote for ‘your side’, are you asking enough about candidates before you give them your vote? What do you actually know about them and their ability to represent your interests?
This last point was perhaps the most important: in a post-conflict society like Northern Ireland, we thought it would be interesting to ask people to examine what kind of political culture develops over time when many voters have been simply voting for ‘their side’ for decades. What consequences does this have for our ability as a nation to govern ourselves effectively and fairly?
It’s been interesting to see where people have gone with this across the various social platforms and how they interpreted the messages on the set of posters. Generally, reactions ranged from comments suggesting that the campaign was simply encouraging people to examine their chosen candidate a little harder before casting their vote, right through to guesses at which dark forces were behind these obviously machiavellian voter suppression tactics. For your further reading enjoyment, we’ve included some social content highlights below by way of illustration.
Mystery solved - group behind Belfast's spoof election posters comes forwardhttps://t.co/JqKxkEuUKJ pic.twitter.com/LFNhi5kfQl— Belfast Telegraph (@BelTel) March 29, 2019
There’s a lot of election posters on Belfast lampposts. This is easily my favourite pic.twitter.com/2Gh74x6tEX— Peter Geoghegan (@PeterKGeoghegan) March 28, 2019
The spoof political posters around Belfast are the election equivalent of “it’s really more of a comment than a question”— Sarah Laverty (@SarahLaverty1) March 26, 2019
What are you actually contributing?
On those fake Belfast election posters - this article came from the Ireland subreddit and it's quite something in its entirety but what was done during the Tinidad&Tobago elections...oh my😲 https://t.co/mmlIvBWtdu pic.twitter.com/CUan2RHtIj— Aisling Ní Ghallcobhair☘️ (@lingading79) March 26, 2019
Ho Ho! A ruse! No politicians were harmed in the making of these posters. The posters will be taken down and donated...Posted by Framewerk on Friday, 29 March 2019
An article on the mock election posters that appeared around Belfast. It's an important commentary on the state of us. Whoever had the idea and the balls to do it has done us all a service. https://t.co/YPdBRQLEGU— J4MES (@mes_j4) March 26, 2019
Have seen these all over Belfast today...I get the point they make but I also kinda think whoever’s able to afford to print and place so many across the city should try putting their own name on a poster and stand for election. Taking a swipe at politicians is easy. https://t.co/ypB75NGSal— Fergal McFerran (@FergalMcFerran) March 25, 2019
I thought these were fantastic!! Sadly they’re also true https://t.co/tv3ELHOiXU— Andrew Norrie (@AndrewNorrie58) March 29, 2019
Well played @ImagineBelfast 👏👏👏 https://t.co/jIeBK4iKHO— Skippy Vinyls (@SkippyVinyls) March 29, 2019
I think it sparks interest as to what a good politician looks like and to really think about your vote. Good for canvassers to get asked proper questions— Laura Michael (@LauraJMic) March 29, 2019
Election posters in Belfast. Someone sick of the lot of them or - adjusts tin foil hat - voter suppression? See article under post.Posted by Andy Panter on Tuesday, 26 March 2019
Know who's behind these mock election posters? email email@example.com://t.co/2NElAdEi1J— The Irish News (@irish_news) March 27, 2019
POLITICS | Mystery over fake election posters in Northern Irelandhttps://t.co/FPuBCMaANh pic.twitter.com/6kj4975fky— Belfast News Letter (@News_Letter) March 26, 2019
A slew of satirical election posters has appeared across Belfast sparking much debate. Who (or what is behind...Posted by Slugger O'Toole on Tuesday, 26 March 2019
Great election poster - Ormeau road, Belfast pic.twitter.com/jBKy5C3i4x— Brian Shevlin (@TheShevlin) March 29, 2019
It's hardly Swift ...https://t.co/xadz3dr5ls— MLAs And The Like (@MLAsAndTheLike) March 25, 2019
From this Reddit post: https://t.co/GtA8eYLJ8w— Dan Beale Cocks (@DanBeale1) March 26, 2019
I applaud any initiative which tries to make us think again about our voting decisions— Fergus Cooper (@fergusfcooper) March 29, 2019
Election posters starting to go up in Belfast - but do I sense some cynicism about representative politics in the air...!? pic.twitter.com/dZTS3LXlWK— Muiris MacCarthaigh (@MuirisMac) March 25, 2019
Ah, the #ImagineBelfast was responsible for provoking debate and discussion on the elections here. No bad thing. Will it change attitudes on voting behaviour leading to a less entrenched pluralist body politic? #belfastposters https://t.co/HZ1mVQDTju— Ciarán Hanna (@MrHanna3) March 29, 2019
These are great! Anything to get both voters and politicians encouraged to open up rather than rely on simplistic, historic narratives that anchor communities in the past.— Save Maghera Park (@SaveMagheraPark) March 29, 2019