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Portrait of a cartoonist as a Bannerman

GOOD political or current affairs cartoons can be a huge addition to a newspaper but for some reason, relatively few Irish local papers use them.


The Clare Champion is an exception and for the last 16 years, its cartoonist, who goes by the moniker Bert the Bannerman (he is actually from Thurles), has been casting a wry look at social, political, business and sporting matters.

Brian Cowen, Giovanni Trappatoni and George Bush have all been in his crosshairs but in no way has he neglected Clare, with many, if not most, of the county’s politicians and sports stars having featured in his weekly slot.

At the moment a selection of his favourite cartoons are on show in Glór until March 2.
Speaking last week he said his favourite cartoon was published after the long running Mullaghmore saga finished.

“Mullaghmore was going for so long and in 2000 it came to an end and I had that cartoon with Síle De Valera being carried down off the mountain. The Mullaghmore seven won their case.”

The cartoon shows caricatures of the seven carrying a giant size representation of Ms De Valera away from Mullaghmore.

Looking at the exhibits reminds one of the various controversies and talking points that Clare has had over the last decade and a half.

Many who served on Clare County Council during that time are in the pictures as are sporting icons like Davy Fitzgerald, Brian Lohan, Páidí Ó Sé and Ger Loughnane. While the public can buy copies of them, he says he isn’t doing the exhibition in the hopes of generating any huge sales.

He tries to find something distinctive about his subjects and of one former local politician he says “He’s got big ears and woolly hair so automatically he was a wild man.”

Some of the former Fianna Fáil TDs were quite easy to work on. “I enjoyed some of the Fianna Fáil caricatures, Brendan Daly and Tony Killeen were great, Síle De Valera was excellent, they were ideal material. You could do a caricature of them very easily.”

The last Taoiseach never won much admiration during his few years in the hot seat, but he certainly made the work of satirists a lot easier and Mr Cowen features in several of the cartoons along with the late Brian Lenihan.

Describing one of the cartoons, he says, “The two boys are driving a car looking at a roadmap for recovery but they were obviously lost. In another one they were Laurel and Hardy in a boat, but the boat was sinking. There was another one with the Galway Tent in 2008, with poor oul Brian (Cowen) standing outside it in the rain.”

Indeed the recession left him with a whole host of subjects to choose from. “I shouldn’t say I was delighted with the crash of the Celtic Tiger but everything was going wrong and things were falling down all over the place.”

While he does keep an eye on politics he doesn’t have a massive interest or any affiliations, and he feels that “everybody gets a fair swipe of the pen.”

The work of the cartoonist has changed since he started in 1997 particularly as technology is far ahead of what it was then. While he still draws the original picture with the pencil, he now scans that onto a computer before adding colour and shade on Photoshop.

He admits to sometimes struggling for inspiration. “Yeah, I would. Right up to the deadline. Some weeks there would be nothing happening in the silly season. There’d be no politicians around or anything. Sometimes you’d go to bed and then you’d wake up with something.”

Bert says that he loves getting feedback on the cartoons. “People would stop me and say they got a kick out of it and that’d keep me going until the next week. That’s encouraging.”



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