Tuesday, 23 April 2024

Textile Details

'Tip O’Neill', by Lisa Raye Garlock. (Photo: Lisa Raye Garlock)
'Tip O’Neill', by Lisa Raye Garlock. (Photo: Lisa Raye Garlock)


Title of Textile:Tip O’Neill
Maker: Lisa Raye Garlock
Country of Origin: USA
Year Produced: 2023
Size (cm): 45cm (w) x 55cm (l)
Materials: Recycled and/or hand-dyed fabrics and threads (cotton, linen, silk, wool), Irish linen, ties (provided by family), hand printed fabric and felt.
Type of Textile: Story Cloth

Thomas Phillip “Tip” O’Neill (1912 – 1994) was an Irish American politician, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, coalition builder, father, husband, friend and advocate for working people. It is his contribution to the Northern Ireland peace process and his friendship with John Hume that is depicted in this Story Cloth; one of three in a Peace Makers series, commissioned through curator Roberta Bacic, Conflict Textiles, with the support of the John Hume and Thomas P. O’Neill Chair in Peace.

Artist, Lisa Raye Garlock took on the challenge “with curiosity and excitement”. She immersed herself in researching Tip O’Neill, the Troubles, and the Northern Ireland peace process; to get a sense of the man, the layers, the context – before ever handling the fabric.

Lisa’s style of making story cloths entails piecing together different textiles to create a varied background, which here represent multiple aspects of O’Neill’s life. The centre bottom area, “all politics is local” signifies the building blocks for structures, referencing Tip’s father who was a bricklayer and laid the groundwork for Tip’s belief in listening to his neighbours, his constituents and working for stronger communities. This phrase became common parlance, and in the words of writer Charles P. Pierce (2015), “…has been repeated so often that it ought to be stitched on a sampler and hung on the wall of the common room...”.

The small felted piece near the centre represents O’Neill’s wife, Millie; the family anchor who raised their five children and ran the household mostly on her own, leaving Tip free to pursue his high level political work. The central placement of this piece honours women, whose contribution is often invisible, unacknowledged and taken for granted. The oak leaf above and to the left, links to John Hume, Peacemaker, the embroidered portrait by Deborah Stockdale. It further connects Hume and O’Neill in terms of heritage, family and peace work.

In the top left a silhouette of the “Hands Across the Divide” sculpture by Maurice Harron (1992) sewn onto Irish linen, symbolises the peace process, hopes for the future and the compromises entailed. Below are sewn pieces of two of O’Neill’s ties, courtesy of his son, Tom. One is specific to Cape Cod, MA, an important place in his life. The gray fabric with rainbow stitching connects to his granddaughters, who continue his legacy of public service.

The four horses outlined in the bottom right corner refer to “the Four Horsemen”, a nickname given to Tip O’Neill, Edward Kennedy, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and Hugh Carey, all of whom stood for a constitutional peace process in Ireland, backing the philosophy of John Hume. This image characterises coalitions, compromise, collaboration and the coming together of people to make change; elements that O’Neill pursued throughout his career.

The portrait of O’Neill himself is inspired by an image from an unknown photographer. It captures his many layers -gravity, concern, knowledge, curiosity, and compassion. The small embroidered image of O’Neill and Hume to the left is from a photo taken in Ireland. It depicts their enthusiasm and determination and points to their friendship and their joint work.

The “bullets and bombs are not the answer…” quote hails from remarks he made on 15 November 1985 in support of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. (RONALD REAGAN Presidential Library and Museum (1985) Remarks on the United Kingdom-Ireland Agreement Concerning Northern Ireland)

The three embroidered red lines - two on the grey and black section and one at the bottom - represent the bloodshed and lives lost during the Troubles. O’Neill died in early January 1994. In August of that year the Provisional IRA declared a ceasefire, paving the way for a fledgling peace process, leading to the Good Friday Agreement; whose early foundations Tip O’Neill had worked tirelessly to build.

Original Story Cloth description provided by Lisa Raye Garlock, February 2023

Owner: Conflict Textiles collection
Location: Conflict Textiles store
Original / Replica: Original
Photographer: Lisa Raye Garlock
Provenance: This textile is one of three in a peacemakers' series, commissioned through Conflict Textiles, to mark 25 years of the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland.

Textile Detail Image(s)

  Garlock L.R., (February 2023) Original description text for the Story Cloth