This week we highlight the site of Councillor Clive McFarland of Omagh District Council. His introduction is short and to the point. He has a short list of personal milestones in the development of his political career as part of his opening description. His picture gallery is particularly well resourced. There’s a nice touch too with his main photograph with a background of Omagh High Street.There’s also a link to his Facebook profile, inviting people to become friends with Clive. Facebook is potentially (all online tools have latent potential, but it’s what you do realise it that makes it useful or a drag on your precious time) a powerful convening tool.
Just from clicking through we can see that he has 38 friends; eight of them are also ‘friends’ of mine. He’s joined 14 groups, including one for members/supporters of the DUP; another for supporters of Northern Ireland Football; and of course, the readers of Slugger O’Toole (Clive blogged here on Slugger until his election in 2005).
There’s huge potential to be unlocked in this application, particularly for a councillor who’s ambitious to take a lead on local issues. There’s not many Omagh focused groups, and none that takes civic engagement seriously. There is a plethora of alumnus groups including Clive’s own Omagh Academy and Omagh CBS.
There’s also a The “Bring Back Willie Lopez Kebab House, Omagh” Campaign. It’s a hint at the scope for Clive (or indeed one of his rival online councillors) to develop a local issue focused group and begin to bring constituents together for their own practical ends, giving him stronger qualitative connections with individual voters, potentially from across party divides.
There’s also decent local data on Omagh’s performance on recycling, which begins to lend the site a utility beyond Clive’s own role as an individual member.
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