Northern Ireland

Colin Davidson worried at Brexit impact on Anglo-Irish relations

Colin Davidson beside his portrait
Image caption Colin Davidson has painted the Queen and leading international politicians

One of Northern Ireland's best known artists has said he is concerned about the impact Brexit is having on Anglo-Irish relations.

Colin Davidson has painted the Queen and leading international politicians.

He told BBC NI's The View he fears the unity and warmth he has seen in recent years may disappear and be replaced by the "divisive politics" of the past.

The Belfast-born artist was involved in a number of bridge-building projects organised by Co-Operation Ireland.

They include the historic first handshake between the Queen and Martin McGuinness.

He also painted portraits of former first minister Ian Paisley and deputy first minister Martin McGuinness which, he revealed, are always to be displayed together at the request of the two politicians.

Mr McGuinness was also present when Mr Davidson's commissioned portrait of the Queen was unveiled in London three years ago.

"I saw things starting to thaw, I saw the relationship starting to thaw in a way that for hundreds of years it had not," he said.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Martin McGuinness was present when Mr Davidson's commissioned portrait of the Queen was unveiled in London three years ago.

"You get little pockets of time in history where little things occur like the handshake.

"It was nearly them saying 'I acknowledge your loss, I acknowledge your pain' and that was a seismic shift in Anglo-Irish history."

But he said Brexit had shown how fragile the relationship was. He said the warmth in relations was starting to "cool".

"Whenever we experience coming together and unity and warmth there is a hope for the future, whenever we see the cooling taking place and the divisiveness starting to creep back in again that's when there is real cause for concern," Mr Davidson said.

But the chief executive of Co-Operation Ireland, Peter Sheridan, told The View he was hopeful the damage to Anglo-Irish relations will be "temporary".

"They are on the two opposite sides of a negotiation and so tensions will arise," Mr Sheridan said.

Image caption Colin Davidson said his painting was "an Irishman's interpretation of the Queen"

"The history of this place is that we ebb and flow in relationships and whatever happens post Brexit there will still be a need to build relations with our closest neighbour.

"We need to maintain the habit of co-operation"

Meanwhile the Irish president said he believes Ireland and Britain will work closer together after Brexit but probably in "different circumstances".

"I think at that stage all these relationships become all the more important", President Michael D Higgins said.

President Higgins was speaking during a three-day visit to England this week during which he was joined by Prince Charles for a function at Liverpool University.

Related Topics

More on this story