TDs to be rated on politics site


14 May 2007

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RateMyTD.com, a website which enables members of the public to grade their Dail representatives, has come online.

The site lists all current sitting TDs and candidates standing in the upcoming election and allows users to score them on a variety of criteria. It also allows users to post comments on the TDs.

The criteria are divided up under four headings: Activity, Corruption, General Politics and Personal Qualities. Under the Activity heading, for example, users can rate their TDs under various subheadings, including Communications, Dail Performance, Vocality, Responsiveness and Local Issues and Local Government. Under the Corruption heading, users can score their deputies under subheadings such as Bribery, Cronyism and Personal Interests.

The site also has TDs’ Dail speaking records, register of interests and expenses. TDs will be able to respond to users’ comments on the site.

The site styles itself a “non-partisan website which aims to offer both facts and opinions on your representatives, and those who hope to be your representatives”.

The format has been used in the past for teachers and solicitors, with sites Ratemyteachers.ie and Rate-your-solicitor.com both causing controversy.

Rate-your-solicitor.com was the subject of a defamation case brought by a solicitor late last year. The site is hosted from the US.

Ken Murphy, director general of the Law Society, who had been targeted on the site, said at the time: “This is the technological equivalent of writing insults on the back of the toilet door. The anonymity of the content is what robs them of any credibility or value.”

The site owners say the anonymity allows people to post comments truthfully without fear of repercussion.

Cian O’Flaherty, who runs political website Irishelection.com, welcomed the advent of RateMyTD.com. “I think it is a great site which is carrying out an essential public service. It underlines the ability of the internet to deliver public service information going into the future and is, as far as I can tell, further example of the democratising effect the web has on politics and political discussion.”

“I doubt it will be as controversial as Ratemyteachers.ie or Rate-your-solicitor.com. Teachers and solicitors are professionals who depend on their reputation daily to achieve their work tasks. TDs really only need it every five years. People may relate scathing stories or so forth about TDs but it is unlikely we will see controversy of the scale seen at ratemyteachers.ie.”

Whether the site will make an impact on voting in the election remains to be seen, but O’Flaherty does not think it has arrived too late to make a difference. “Personally, I doubt it is too late. In the last two weeks of an election campaign there will be many people who want to check their TDs’ record in the Dail and their rating by constituents. It has the potential to bring TDs further into the spotlight of constituents, which is a good thing.”

Another politically-oriented website launched recently is Pickyourparty.ie. Run by postgraduate and postdoctorate students in the Department of Political Science in Trinity College Dublin, the site aims to help people choose what party is most suited to their worldview by getting them to fill in a questionnaire, thus saving punters the effort of reading party manifestoes.

The site owners determined the parties’ positions using data drawn from a survey on Irish political parties that formed part of a larger project, carried out by Professor Kenneth Benoit of Trinity College Dublin and Professor Michael Laver of New York University, which attempted to estimate party positions on important policy dimensions in 47 countries.

The site owners say: “The information provided here can act as a shortcut for those who don’t have the time, resources or inclination to follow Irish politics on a day-to-day basis, but still wish to exercise their right to vote in an informed and meaningful way.”

One drawback of the site is that the data was taken in 2003, so changes in parties’ policies since then have not been factored in.

The internet will also feature strongly in RTE’s election coverage, with the RTE.ie/election site incorporating audio-visual highlights from television and radio, a blog with contributions from political correspondents and election guides for voters.

Results from the count day will be updated immediately on the site.

There have been calls from bloggers to have this week’s live television debates between party leaders, scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday evenings, to be available for download and dissemination on the internet in their entirety. A spokesperson for RTE told siliconrepublic.com that this matter will be discussed by RTE’s legal team today and a final decision will be made.

The spokesperson said: “At the moment all our news and current affairs programming is available as a live stream on our website. It’s also available in archives as well so it’s permanently there. There’s nothing specific at the moment about downloading it for other purposes because that is a copyright issue. That will be discussed with our legal people today.”

By Niall Byrne