rolling out in the west…

Slugger’s support for the project is off to a flying start. This project – encouraging individual councillors to set up a personal website as a first step towards a more effective use of on-line tools – already has over 30 councillors formally signed up to it, and plenty more have told us that their support for the project is ‘in the post’. Fermanagh’s Impartial Reporter has had some early feedback (subs needed) from right around the political compass.Paul Evans of had a few meetings with councillors last week – many of whom, he reports liked the idea in principle, but were worried about the level of technical knowledge that they’d need in practice.

“In every case, as soon as councillors saw how simple it was, their worries evaporated. Anyone who is capable of buying a book from Amazon would be able to manage every part of one of these sites without any real training. And if any councillors do have problems, we’ll give them a telephone helpline that they can call for a bit of advice.

“Though a few were initially a bit worried about this, every single one who has actually seen how it works understands just how easy it is. Everyone who has actually seen it has agreed to set up their own site. We’re going to do some more demonstrations in February, and I think that most councillors who see it will be keen to get involved.”

Whilst the actual shape of Northern Ireland’s pending local government reorganisation is still up for grabs, it is likely that there will be fewer councillors. Some may also see it as the obvious point to retire from front-line politics: the negotiations around the RPA are thought to involve some kind of pay-off for retiring councillors. Those individual councillors may end up representing a more diverse
community than they do at the moment. Paul believes it likely that those councillors who are planning to continue beyond the reorganisation will want to use this project to help build their personal profile with the new electorates.

The first sites will be going live over the next few weeks. By the end of February, hopefully, we will be able to look at this project and deduce from it which councillors are preparing to
ready themselves for the future.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty