The aspirations of Irish bloggers to contribute to the political debate and national zeitgeist at the dawn of a new election year will be debated at a ‘Blogging the Election’ event in Dublin next month.
Blogging, or the art of keeping a web log, has been termed citizen journalism and allows ordinary citizens a pedestal to elaborate their views on everything from politics to football and music.
Unlike traditional journalism, blogs usually consist of the author’s personal views as opposed to reportage and investigation. Despite this, blogs have risen in prestige and notoriety in equal measure as a source of information. In some cases, blogs have broken actual news stories with revealing new material.
In the US bloggers are believed to have shaped some of the biggest news stories and often provide a decisive influence. In the UK aggressive anti-government bloggers have been generating stories that have made some of the most senior politicians in the land feel the heat, such as in the case of the UK’s deputy Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Ireland’s best-known blog is Sluggerotoole.com, which compiles comprehensive news and comment on Northern Irish politics.
The event to be held in Dublin next month will feature prominent bloggers as well as politicians and journalists.
The event is being organised by Mick Fealty of www.sluggerotoole.com along with Suzy O’Byrne of www.mamanpoulet.com and lobbyist Damian Mulley who recently launched www.politicsinireland.com.
As the new election year dawns, it is envisaged that politically oriented websites and debates within blogs could encourage a new generation of citizens to use their right to vote. Elections in Ireland in recent years have been dogged by falling numbers of citizens voting and an aging of the voter population.
There is evidence of Irish politicians taking to the medium of blogging to get their points across. Leinster House bloggers include Labour’s Liz McManus and Joan Burton TD and the Green Party’s Ciaran Cuffe TD and Dan Boyle TD.
Bloggers believe that the internet can help to energise interest in politics and campaigning. “The ‘Blogging the Election’ event will explore how bloggers can benefit elections and help shape the future of politics,” said Cian O’Flaherty from IrishElection.com.
Advocates of blogging such as Mick Fealty believe the medium puts considerable power in the hands of ordinary citizens to “disrupt cosy consensuses of established political and media elites”.
Fealty said: “Next year’s general election holds possibilities for a blogging breakthrough in Irish politics and we will be exploring this issue in depth via experienced guest speakers and by facilitating a series of open spaces in which participants can host their own conversations, probing issues that they are passionate about.”
When asked about whether bloggers view themselves as purveyors of the news or part of the news story, Fealty explained: “Bloggers are not really heroic figures, simply first movers. If we look to the US and UK they are, looked at from one angle, simply altering the architecture through which news is written and consumed.”
The Blogging the Election event will take place in Dublin on 7 October next. A venue for the event has yet to be confirmed.
By John Kennedy