Stormont ministers reveal artistic sides for charity

Peter Robinson's artwork
Peter Robinson's artwork

IF Peter Robinson had not decided on a career in politics, he could well have considered life as a professional artist.

That was the opinion yesterday of internationally-acclaimed artist Neil Shawcross, who lectured at the College of Art in Belfast for 40 years.

Martin McGuinness' artwork

Martin McGuinness' artwork

Mr Shawcross was giving his critical analysis of a sketch by the First Minister, who is one of 40 political leaders, celebrities and sportspeople to have submitted their own art in a bid to raise money for the charity, Action MS.

The DUP leader’s artwork is a world famous scene from his east Belfast constituency, entitled “The Original Belfast Giant”.

“Peter Robinson’s piece is a work of cranes at Harland & Wolff,” said Mr Shawcross.

“It is pretty skilled. I wonder did he ever think of going into the art world when he was at school?

Gavin Robinson's artwork

Gavin Robinson's artwork

“I have never met him but if I do I may well ask him that question.”

Mr Shawcross – whose work has been exhibited in the US, Hong Kong, London, Manchester, Dublin and Belfast, and whose work can be found in every major public collection in Ireland – was also “very struck” by the artistic endeavours of Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

“Some of the other pieces are more or less autographs with a doodle,” he said. “But I thought he made a serious attempt.”

Mr Shawcross said he understood that the Deputy First Minister has a close relative who is a professional artist.

“His piece [of Fanad Lighthouse, Donegal] shows that he is aware of what is going on and is not a stranger to the art world.”

Mr Shawcross was also impressed by the “very clever” contribution from Fr Eugene O’Hagan, of musical group The Priests.

“His contribution was a dozen colouring pencils – just like the ones he was supplied with – each one named after an apostle.”

Action MS chief executive, Ann Walker, said they “were met with the most amazing kindness” when they approached public figures to see if they would take part.

“We simply supplied each person with a dozen colouring pencils and some art paper and asked them to give a title to their work,” she said.

“We met the Lord Mayor of Belfast Gavin Robinson in his parlour and he observed that the paintings gave some interesting insights into the psyches of the contributors.”

Ms Walker revealed that in his first year as Prime Minister, David Cameron did 50 limited edition prints – a simple sketch of a sheep with the title “Thinking of Ewe”.

“We really appreciated the fact that he gave us the second print from his series,” she said.

Northern Ireland has the second highest incidence of multiple sclerosis per capita in the world, number one being Scotland.

“The money raised will help sufferers in many ways. For example, it may help them remain in work, deal with redundancy on account of their condition or deal with insurance companies which are refusing to pay out,” said Ms Walker.

The 40 pieces will go up for auction on Monday, November 19 in Titanic Belfast. The auctioneer will be Daniel Clarke of Ross’s Fine Arts. People can view the art and make bids online in advance at

Up to 50 limited edition prints based on artwork created exclusively for the campaign by Neil Shawcross can also be purchased.

Contributors to the auction include Matt Baggott, Sean Quinn, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, David Jeffrey, Owen Paterson MP, Sir Terry Wogan, Frank Mitchell, Gay Byrne, Anthony P McCoy, Gavin Robinson, Phil Coulter, Brian O’Driscoll, Pamela Ballantine, Graeme McDowell, Patrick Kielty and Dame Mary Peters.