N. Ireland Politics

General election 2017: Artist Cornelia Parker visits NI for election inspiration

Cornelia Parker
Image caption Election artist Cornelia Parker came to Belfast on Monday to take snapshots of the city to help inform her final piece

For both the political parties and voters, this election campaign has been strange.

No-one would have imagined that the UK would have endured two terror attacks within two weeks, when Theresa May called the general election back in April.

After a second pause in campaigning on Sunday by most of the parties, as a mark of respect for victims of the London attack, the battle for votes commenced once more on Monday morning.

But can you imagine trying to sum up this election campaign as a piece of art?

If the answer is no, then spare a thought for Cornelia Parker - the renowned conceptual artist who has been given the task of doing precisely that.

Image caption Cornelia Parker uses her phone to photograph everything and hopes her final piece will be ready to display by mid-September

She's been travelling to different parts of the UK throughout the campaign, hoping to get some inspiration to help her create a unique piece representing the election.

On Monday, she was on a one-day visit to Northern Ireland, going on a Belfast bus tour as well as seeing Stormont's Parliament Buildings.

"I spent two hours in a cab going round all the murals and getting a great history from the taxi driver," said Ms Parker.

She said she hopes that her trip to Belfast will help inform her final piece.

"I'm so worried about the UK falling apart, and just living in England rather than in the UK. This election is taking in so many dimensions," she said.

"I feel I am a concerned citizen, I'm increasingly politically minded and I do think people should vote rather than just abstain - more than ever, grassroots need to be heard."

Although Ms Parker joked that she can't sway politically left or right, she said she hoped her piece would encapsulate the electoral mood music.

"Somehow it's got to have all the multi-facets I've seen. What I'm trying to do is cover something that's more intimate and more about mood and anxiety," she said.

Ms Parker admitted she's under a bit of pressure, but hopes that the public will be pleased with her final piece.

If you fancy checking it out - it's set to go on display in the House of Commons collection in mid-September.

North Belfast candidates clash over marriage equality

Image caption The six candidates were questioned by BBC presenter William Crawley and an audience of people from various sectors across North Belfast

There haven't been many Northern Ireland hustings in this election campaign - but on Monday, the candidates standing in North Belfast faced scrutiny on BBC's Talkback programme, which came live from the Crumlin Road Gaol.

This constituency will be closely watched on election night, with DUP incumbent Nigel Dodds facing a challenge for his seat in the form of Sinn Féin newcomer John Finucane.

While the show focused on terrorism and the parties' approaches to Brexit talks - it was an issue unrelated to Westminster that caused the biggest clash.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that does not allow same-sex marriage.

The DUP has used a veto known as the petition of concern - which requires the proposal to achieve a cross-community majority - to block marriage equality legislation at Stormont five times.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The issue of marriage equality led to a row between the parties

When asked by presenter William Crawley if the DUP would change its stance on the issue, Mr Dodds said they wouldn't take a decision until devolution was restored.

He added that the party alone does not have the magic number of MLAs needed - 30 - to enact a petition of concern and would need other parties to sign it too.

A heated exchange then ensued between Mr Dodds and the SDLP candidate Martin McAuley, which you can listen back to here.

You can also find a full list of candidates standing in all 18 constituencies in Northern Ireland in Thursday's general election here.

Turn on your TV tonight

As we approach the final countdown to polling day, the first of Northern Ireland's leaders debates will be televised on Monday night.

With full campaigning back in force following Sunday's brief suspension, the UTV leaders' debate will still take place, having been pre-recorded on Monday afternoon.

It was confirmed last week that DUP leader Arlene Foster wouldn't be taking part, but the party will be represented by its Westminster leader, Nigel Dodds.

You can watch the UTV leaders' debate on UTV from 21:00.

In case you missed it...

Elsewhere on the campaign trail on Monday...

BBC News NI's Campaign Catch-up will keep you across the general election trail with a daily dose of the main stories, the minor ones and the lighter moments in the run up to polling day on Thursday 8 June.

Hear more on BBC Radio Ulster's Evening Extra at 17:40 each weekday.

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