Northern Ireland

Twitter pairs: MLAs matched with famous lookalikes

Art Garfunkel and Martin McGuinness Image copyright Twitter/MLAalikes
Image caption Is Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness (right) a member of the 1960s music duo Simon and Garfunkel by night?

Double-jobbing was supposed to be phased out at Stormont, but it looks as though not every MLA got the message.

Some have been spotted posing as 1960s pop stars, dancing on TV insurance adverts and starring in comedy shows.

But the likes of Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness and the Democratic Unionist Party's (DUP) Christopher Stalford haven't given up the day job just yet.

They have just been paired up with their celebrity lookalikes on a new Twitter account called MLAalikes.

Image copyright Twitter/MLAalikes
Image caption Is the DUP's Christopher Stalford (right) selling insurance on the sly?

The account was set up this week by political bloggers Kris Nixon and Conor Johnston.

The pair are friends who both write for the Northern Ireland politics website Slugger O'Toole.

'Bit of fun'

"We were just a bit jaded with the amount of content that goes on social media that's critical, that's constantly berating MLAs," Mr Nixon told BBC News NI.

The 29-year-old blogger said some of the material posted online about Stormont politicians is "sometimes quite offensive", and MLAalikes aimed to avoid that.

Image copyright Twitter/MLAalikes
Image caption Now that he's left The Apprentice, has DUP MP Gregory Campbell (right) struck up a friendship with Sinn Féin's Martina Anderson?

"We thought, let's just put something out there that's a little bit of fun, that both sides can laugh at," he said.

"If you see a funny picture of an MLA that's not offensive, it's not crass, it's not trying to annoy people... you're likely to give it a share."

So far, there has been a positive response from some of those who have featured in the gallery.

"There has been some interaction from councillors and MLAs alike, and the more we do, the more we think they enjoy it," Mr Nixon added.

"They're more likely to engage if they don't feel like they're being abused."

Image copyright Twitter/MLAalikes
Image caption Is the spirit of the late Ian Paisley living on in DUP MLA Christopher Stalford?

Mr Stalford, a South Belfast MLA, has already featured twice - first he was compared to one of the dancers on a well-known insurance advert, and in the second instance, striking a pose reminiscent of his former party leader, Ian Paisley.

Imitation is said to be the greatest form of flattery, and the MLA seemed pleased with his DUP doppelganger as he retweeted the post.

"Christopher Stalford obviously engaged quite pleasantly with it," said Mr Nixon.

Separated at birth?

It can be hard to be a true original though, and the bloggers admit they were not the first to spot the DUP MLA's Twitter twin in the insurance ad.

"Apparently another MLA, Gary Middleton, had got there before us."

Some of the matches cross the generations, with former further education minister Stephen Farry (45) likened to schoolboy Will McKenzie, one of the main characters of The Inbetweeners comedy show.

Image copyright Twitter/MLAalikes
Image caption Has former further education minister Stephen Farry (left) gone back to school?

And for a party that likes to stay on middle ground, the uncanny resemblance of some Alliance Party MLAs to actors from the Channel Four show does not stop there.

"I was at an Alliance Party event the other day where they were all laughing about it," said Mr Nixon.

"There's one of Chris Lyttle, the East Belfast MLA, and a character from The Inbetweeners which hadn't been pointed out before."

Image copyright Twitter/MLAalikes
Image caption Younger voters may think they recognise Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle MLA from his time playing Simon Cooper on The Inbetweeners

The bloggers want to reunite more MLAs who were separated at birth from their long-lost celebrity twins and are actively seeking help from Twitter users.

However, not all suggestions match up to their standards.

"We've had a few messages in; some privately, some publicly," Mr Nixon said.

"Although, we've noticed there has been a tendency to go a little bit offensive.

"Some of the public ones so far, we wouldn't put up."