Slugger Awards: Best Political Blog 2009…

It’s our view that the real nexus of political debate is moving inexorably online. In the US and the UK, the line between what’s become known as the commentariat and the bloggertariat is rapidly blurring. We hope our political blogger of the year Award will play a role in identifying (and encouraging) the next generation of big political commentators.Anyone who blogs consistently on Northern Irish politics is eligible: ie they do not have to be based in or be writing exclusively about Northern Ireland. But we are looking for seriousness and purpose. And for blogs that bring consistent quality and impact on the public debate.

In making your nominations, please try to include:

1. The name and the url of the blog.
2. A link to a sample post along with a short extract demonstrating its best qualities.
3. A short pitch on why you believe it is the best political blog of the year.

Be as expansive as you wish, so we can make the best pitch possible to both the reader and judges panels who may not be as familiar as you with your favoured site.

Please note, Slugger is excluded from this category.

  • Gael gan Náire

    “It’s our view that the real nexus of political debate is moving inexorably online”

    I disagree completely. The real nexus of political debate between political nerds like me is almost exclusively online.

    Most normal people, voters, do not waste their time blogging.

    Blogging is virtual debate. It is not real.

    ‘Real’ what goes through the little slit on the ballot box, blogging effects that very very little.

  • although not a political blogger in the purest sense, I’d like to nominate AlaninBelfast for his coverage of the euro elections

    hands-on coverage of postal ballots, polling day and the utter confusion of the count day were brilliantly and thoroughly examined in a series of posts by Alan. It was a great insight into the meaty workings of an election and a welcome change from the he-said/she-said whataboutery.

    He then went on to have a tussle with a govt department and a few local council scoops.

  • Mick Fealty

    Nominations please?

  • 1. Alan In Belfast
    2. “Others took a more deferential stance, hunkering down in front of the tables to try and catch a view of the underside of the papers as they were being set on the table. Can’t resist wondering out loud whether Ian Paisley Junior was praying for votes!”
    3. although not a political blogger in the purest sense, I’d like to nominate AlaninBelfast for his coverage of the euro elections

    hands-on coverage of postal ballots, polling day and the utter confusion of the count day were brilliantly and thoroughly examined in a series of posts by Alan. It was a great insight into the meaty workings of an election and a welcome change from the he-said/she-said whataboutery.

    He then went on to have a tussle with a govt department and a few local council scoops.


  • I’d like to nominate

    I think the guy who writes it is nuts and a looser, but it’s good reading.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Times like these, Horseman is yer only man.

    Posts are very well written, and although by their nature clearly ideological they are backed up by the mainly demographic research which is defended fairly when challenged.

  • Patrick Stephens

    O’Conall Street for top drawer analysis and an honest defence of progressive nationalism.

  • Patrick Stephens
  • driftwood

    Based south of the border, but the philosophy is ‘Universal’…

  • Hi Mick !
    If you want a job done right , you do it yourself!
    That’s my excuse , anyway, to nominate the blog I help to publish – ‘1169 And Counting…’
    URL –
    Typical sample posts –
    Two comments/reviews (from those who should know better!) –
    “1169 and counting is a marvellous site with, as the title suggests, a long long memory. Unashamedly unreformed Republican in its perspective, it is never less than compelling reading for any one interested in the Irish Question. Just keep on scrolling.”

    “1169 And Counting is a wealth of information on our Republican past and present, and demonstrates how the Irish political landscape, like that of any nation, will never be a black and white issue…”
    (The source of those comments/reviews is linked to from the blog itself.)
    We don’t really expect to be in the final count down , but we’ll be quite happy to add to our over 300,000 hits that this wee mention on Slugger will no doubt bring in !

  • Once upon a time I would have railed against a competition that didn’t provide specifically for the Irish language. However, the advent of Google Translate and a more open attitude means that there are no meaningful obstacles anymore so I nominate iGaeilge for this award.

  • Blogreader

    I would nominate Bobballs

    This is probably the blog I enjoy most outside of slugger, clever, witty writing and a real insight into behind the closed walls of politics and Gov.

  • Kensei

    Of the two CUMBA oriebntated blogs, A Pint of Unionist lite is far the better. Chekov might more lengthy posts, but tends to throw the rattle with people or opinions he doesn’t like, and thus loses half the value of a blog. Oneill is much more likely to engage in debate, and still throws out some interesting stuff.

    I think people are also overlooking Mark Devenport’s blog, which provides plenty of fodde for this very site cf Again slightly hampered by lack of comments, but probably shouldn’t be overlooked

  • fair_deal

    I’d second the nomination of unionistlite.

  • Splintered Sunrise

    As our newly-installed finance minister, Sammy the Streaker is supposed to be the man holding the north’s purse strings. However, in a stunning display of béalbochtachas, Sammy has been doing the rounds of the media telling us that there’s no purse and only one string. Not that that’s prevented him striking populist poses.

    Easily the best political blog written in the north. Funny and incisive. Who else would put Sammy Wilson and the béal bocht in the same sentence? Also ranges far beyond NI.

  • Jim


    Do you not think that you are being extremely pretentious in nominating yourself?

  • Mairseail Ui Neill

    If nothing else, this for sheer comedy gold!!

  • That east Belfast SDLP thing is brilliant. But surely for worst rather than best?

  • Only Asking

    Same blogs, like same faces. A bit like the Irish blog awards, they pass it around among themselves. Alan in Belfast isn’t even a political blog……

    Pass it around chaps…

  • Being a blogger and having pretensions is an oxymoron. 🙂

    I nominated myself because it’s no big deal. I have no illusions that I’m going to win or anything. If anything it’s a gesture of support for the competition….

  • alan56 gets my vote. Has a feel of SDLPlite but always well argued posts and a genuine feeling of being open to other views.

  • IGT

    ian parsley’s blog it has to be.

  • DG

    Splintered Sunrise is up there with the very best.
    But let’s not forget the sheer genius that is 1690 and all thon

  • Mark McGreg

    Same as last year, I nominate Splintered Sunrise though I’m feeling uncomfortable with his treatment of pornography at the moment and I suspect I’m meant to. Consistently varied, considered, entertaining and informative.

    I would have also nominated CLR for similar reasons but to be honest they are a bit high-brow for my liking and I suspect some of them may be actual communists.

    Though Garibaldy is another one I’m drawn too for both CLR and his own site.

    I’ll think on but they are three great left Irish blogs.

    Pity we can’t nominate Slugger. I think FD deserves some recognition after bowing out having given 1,000 entries of consistent quality and interest. Maybe get a wee sketch done for him as a thank you, Mick?

  • Roe Valley Socialist: and here’s an example of why:

    Single-handedly resurrecting Marxism in both Cambridge and Limivady surely deserves some kind of award…….

  • Pigs on the wing

    Malcolm is very readable, goes beyond the basics.


  • Boyd Donnelly

    From the Balcony is always a good read and uniquely mixes politics, language, journalism and a variety of different subjects.

    The post below ties in with a fresh breaking story and concludes with a drawn conclusion on what the problem is re: the judicial system.

    * Daithi McKay – Republicanism, Craic agus sceal (

    Daithi Mckay’s blog is useful in that it is tailored very much toward his constituency of north antrim, his party briefs and he uses the blog very effectively as an Assembly member rather than a political analyst (although there are occasional analytical pieces). The intertwining of his twitter and youtube accounts through the blog as well as transcripts of his speeches in the Assembly/Policing Board provides his constituents with a window with which to directly view his work which is not available through any other media format.

    No other MLA has had an effective and detailed a Blog as yet and I think it is the best blog because it mixes analysis with political activism and media whereas other blogs are mainly analytical.

    I enjoyed his recent posts on the rasharkin parade issue, especially the one where he details the connections certain bands had with loyalists and provides an array of photographs taken which speak for themselves and need little analysis. Simple but effective.

  • Fair Deal & Kensei,


    “But we are looking for seriousness and purpose. And for blogs that bring consistent quality and impact on the public debate.”

    Following those criteria I think the two that stand head and shoulders above the rest are Three Thousand Versts and Splintered Sunrise.

    But I think the impact that the blog has on influencing its party’s or wider opinion should also play a part in judging its worth and although we are way behind even the Scottish blogosphere in that respect, three local blogs have at least that potential; Three Thousand Vs (again), Balrog and Tangled Web.

  • @Only Asking – for the record, it may not be solely about politics, and far from the macho cut and thrust political blogging, but there’s a smattering of stuff if you look under the politics tag –

    1. Jeff Peel’s (Public) Diary


    “Jeez. CCHQ asking the UUP to draw up the general election manifesto for Northern Ireland. Now I’ll never…

    This is a tad strange. Because the Conservative Party is organised in Northern Ireland, has an Area Chairman, has an area executive, has, apparently, the ear of the Shadow Secretary of State. Despite this the Conservative Party asks another Party to draw up the Conservative Party’s manifesto. That’d be a first.

    There are many in the UUP, of course, (naming no names but Mark Cosgrove is Chief among them) who close their eyes and pretend that the Conservative Party is not actually organised here and doesn’t have any members. This, of course is not the case.”

    3. After a rather public exit from the NI Conservative scene, Jeff’s blog now provides an intelligent commentary on the machinations behind UCUNF and the changes in Northern Ireland unionist parties, as well as thought on secularism and humanism that’s worth reading.

  • Dave

    1: The Pensive Quill

    2: Sample Post

    “Irish revolutionary history has been replete with the informer type. The degree to which they shaped it may have been exaggerated by their handlers, victims and journalists alike but it is indisputable that their role has earned them no small amount of contempt and hostility. The tout assumes the persona of the bogeyman, to be kept both figuratively and literally at arms length. The scene from The Informer when the blood money he received for setting up his IRA colleague, Frankie McPhilip, was pushed with a cane across the table to Gypo Nolan by his British Army paymaster, conveys the depth and pervasiveness of the distancing and the contempt.

    Often ‘Brussels sprouts’ ended their days in a field or alleyway courtesy of a bullet summarily despatched without compunction into the region of their brains; the coup de grace on occasion administered by fellow touts. The Provisional Movement is said to have killed around 70 informers, only a minority of those who functioned as agents and continue to do so today within its ranks. Their funerals were sparsely attended gatherings poignantly underlined in the TG4 six part documentary series Brathadóirí with footage of mourners shuffling along behind the coffin of Eamon Collins.

    Yet for something so reviled there, a la pederasts, seems to have been enough of them. While it might be inflated to claim that the Provisional IRA was brought to it knees, weighed down by the burden of informers, the organisation’s defeat cannot be fully understood outside the part played by such people. They undermined military activities to such an extent that suing for peace looked an increasingly viable option for the Sinn Fein leadership to pursue, tasked as it was with the strategic management of the IRA. Then they helped sideline opponents of the peace process in favour of others more favourably disposed towards the Adams leadership. That sidelining was the role attributed to Denis Donaldson by Davy Hyland and Martin Cunningham in their contributions to Brathadóirí.”

    3: Anthony McIntyre uses his keen intellect, insider knowledge, integrity, insight, and fluid prose to disturb the dung-heap of Irish political life and “watch the beetles scuttle.” This Blog contains some of the sharpest writing on the north, and it’s all written with unrelenting honesty.

  • Seeing as multiple nominations seem to be ok, I’d second Jenny’s proposal of Roe Valley Socialist, and also mention Jenny’s own East Belfast Diary and Your Friend in the North.

  • Zozimus

    1 –

    nice site covering SF, its strategy, concerns, northern news and southern news and debating direction and strategy. Quite wide ranging, open and honest. Open to all genuine contributors no matter how challenging there opinions may be.

    Sample Posts: –

    Sample post:
    The decision of Domhnall to resign his seat as a Sinn Féin councillor and quit the party to join the Socialist Party must be seen as a massive wake up call for Sinn Féin as a whole and the left of the party in particular.

    For me it is no massive shock when somebody leaves the party because they disagree with a party’s direction or wish to pursue other interests etc. These things happen in politics and are nothing new. However, when somebody of the calibre of Domhanll leaves, does so with such dignity and chooses to join the Socialist Party then those of us who consider ourselves left wing need to take a long look at why he has done this.

    On the Socialist Party website he has made a statement on his reasons for leaving.

    With regard to the above press release I would point out that I have on this site expressed my own concerns regarding the nature of the Stormont assembly and the contradictions I see in us operating in a compulsory coalition with right wing parties. Domhnall echoes these concerns and asks how can this set up work in the interests of working class unity and pushing left wing policies.

    He also points to the need to fight back against the cuts in public expenditure which are inevitably coming. At present we in the 26 are heavily involved in fighting the cuts agenda and I personally am not prepared to allow the party to fight cuts in the South, whilst imposing them in the North.

    He goes on to say,
    “I am convinced that change can only come about if working, unemployed and young people themselves organise to challenge the status quo. We have seen the power of effective local campaigns in fighting against health cutbacks and against the imposition of water charges. ….. Working people must organise themselves against cuts and to defend jobs.”

    These are statements I fully support and all this leaves me and others on the left asking why then did Domhnall leave the party and why should I choose to stay?

    For me Domhanll has shown himself to be an honourable and honest man. He has not like others simply taken his Council seat with him despite it having been won under a Sinn Féin banner. He has moved to the Socialist Party, but he accepts the electorate voted Sinn Féin and he has acted accordingly.

    He has also not spoken of his ex colleages in a completely negative manner, but rather stuck to the issues as he sees them and put forward his case for moving to the Socialist Party.

    So why should I and others stay in the party? I’ll give some of my reasons;

    1) I have met many many brilliant activists within the party and I refuse to believe they will allow Sinn Féin to go in the direction Domhnall seems to feel the party will inevitably go

    2) I beleive that the current debate within the party in one which the left will win and the party will recommit itself to socialist principles and policies.

    3) I believe the current Stomont set up will be temporary and Sinn Féin will ensure the current compulsory coalition system is ended and as a result real cross community politics will be in a stronger position to develop.

    4) Sinn Fein has a potential unmatched by any other party in Ireland. It has a history of struggle which makes it more prepared than others for the struggles ahead. It has a 32 county structure unmatched by any other party, and if we truely commit to demanding real change then I feel we are in a better positon than anybody to ensure that that change comes about.

    These are some of the reasons I beleive Domhnall was wrong to leave the party, however i am aware that the concerns he has are real and I am aware that his analysis may prove to be correct if the left of the party does not organise and put forward coherent positions. The next two to three years will see if I am correct in my hopes for the party.

  • Aisling

    Daithi McKay’s blog demonstrates how MLAs should be taking advantage of ‘new’ media and he has used it quite effectively in highlighting issues which he has a focus on, for example the Giants Causeway debacle, Sammy Wilson’s views on Climate Change and more recently the Rasharkin parade dispute. The use of Twitter and the Blog to provide real-time updates on the Rasharkin dispute provided him with an edge over other political representatives and ensured that he had the lead in the media and broke stories arising out of it first.

    He combines constituency issues with more personal topics as well as analysing bigger political issues such as policing and justice. No other elected member has used his/her blog as effectively as Daithi has over the past year and he clearly has prioritised this form of media as a key one rather than a secondary one – an example others should follow.

    In Scotland crime is at its lowest for a quarter of a century. Recently a Bill has been introduced to the Scottish Parliament to reform the law on rape and sexual offences. The Minister there said that there is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to clarify and strengthen the law on rape and sexual offences. The Assembly there led the way by introducing Drug Courts which are now being copied by jurisdictions in England and Norway.

    This is the devolution of Policing and Justice in action and it gives you an idea of the potential we would have here to better the lives of ordinary people living within our communities when these powers are devolved.

    The skies are not going to fall in. Indeed it will benefit all in the working class community if we could start tackling major issues like the drugs scourge and sexual offences.

    I heard Naomi Long on the Politics Show yesterday talking about the importance of local politicians dealing “with the issues that matter to people on the front line” and then “when they’ve proved themselves” then discuss the possibility of devolving further powers, i.e. Policing and Justice. It is effectively the adoption of the DUP position, without the colourful language that usually accompanies it, but a DUP position all the same. But the real contradiction for me is the fact that the Alliance, like the Ulster Unionist Party, are coming out with the line that policing is not one of the issues that matter to people on the front line when the reality on the streets is quite the opposite.

    At the bottom of this post I’ve deliberately listed some of the work that is being undertaken by the devolved administration in Scotland. How can anybody argue that these issues do not matter to people on the front line?!

    I was part of a cross-party delegation which met with the Scottish Minister for Justice, the SNP’s Kenny MacAskill, earlier this year and the benefits of having these powers devolved are blatantly obvious. The DUP position of arguing against it is untenable and detrimental to the community that it represents. Already the DUP works alongside and with Sinn Féin on the Policing Board in holding the PSNI to account. We need Policing and Justice devolved to deal effectively and holistically with issues such as anti-social behaviour, death-driving, drug-dealing, the Public Prosecution service and remission for sex offenders.

  • jabba

    Shame they must be of serious intent, if not I’d second DG and nominate for consistent daftness.

    Might do anyway. Isn’t there a category for the insane?

  • Mick Fealty

    Great nominations people… Please keep them coming!!!

  • Hutton

    Daithi MacKay ( as hes the only mla who has caught on to the potential that the internet has for politicians and has used it to his advantage politically and in terms of publicity.

  • Apart from slugger, my favourite blogs are alaninbelfast and Mairtin O’Muilleoir’s Balcony, the latter mainly because I don’t know how he finds the time.
    When I was researching the area before launching the East Belfast Herald, alaninbelfast was the only place you could find anything worth knowing about the place.
    His coverage of the no-show at the Assembly roadshow is a perfect example of Alan at work.
    He asked each party for an explanation and timed their responses.
    Design wise, his blog is well laid out, lengthy pieces, such as this one, are broken up with each party assigned a colour so it doesn’t feel as though you’re wading through political treacle.
    Free of deadlines he can pick a topic and dig in in a way that a paper rarely can.
    He gets my vote.

  • Sue

    Dathi Mckay certainly knows how to focus campaigns and does so effectively through his blog – “craic, republicanism agus sceal”

    This recent posting about Nelson McCausland outlines his position on the issue, highlights the work he has done on it through Members Questions and leaves you with the impression he will continue to pursue this matter. The Rasharkin parade issue has been analysed to death on the site through commentary, video and photographs but provides you with comprehensive detail on his position on the matter as well as material which isn’t available through conventional media.

    I feel that this is the blog of the year because Dathi has used the blog ruthlessly to benefit his political objectives and it is something that other politicians here need to catch up with.

    People reading blogs soon get a good idea of the personality and precise politics of the blogger and I think that this is beneficial for (some!) politicians as their constituents may usually be restricted to soundbytes and 3 paragraph statements.

  • Steve

    Patrick Corrigan’s Amnesty International blog is very good. Serious, consistent, current. Occasionally amusing. It looks at issues in Northern Ireland in a wider context, and global issues from a Northern Ireland perspective.

    He covers human rights at home and abroad: recent posts encompass Hilary Clinton’s visit, Poetry Day, Guantanamo Bay and his personal fondness for Mary Robinson. Here’s a goodie on the need for a Northern Ireland Bill of Rights:

  • Veronique Dupont

    I would definately nominate ‘Belfast and Beyond’ as the best blog about Northern Ireland issues. It gives a pretty comprehensive coverage of various news related to human rights. I really enjoy reading this blog because it’s informative, nice tone of voice and lots of humour. so I really hope you’ll get this blog on the list for the Best Political Blog 2009 ;-)Here’s the URL –

  • Jonathan McCullough

    A pint of Unionist lite.

    O’Neill always comes across as both reasonable and willing to stand up for what he believes. Very balanced blog with coverage of political issues across the British Isles and beyond.


    A campaigning and cultural blog of the highest quality.

  • Salem
  • Gallagher

    Free from the censorship of any party press office, other mlas should follow suit.

  • Michael Shilliday

    I’m surprised bob has only got one mention! One of the funniest blogs in Northern Ireland

  • kensei

    On the basis of Aisling’s post another for Daithi too. It’s the first time I have heard anyone in SF make a coherent case for the importance of P&J.

  • I smell a rat

    It’s pretty obvious that our Daithi has sent a few texts around telling people/staffers to nominate his blog. Either that or he has been posting under different names, but I just hope he isn’t pathetic enough to do that.

    Strange that all his nominations come from names that slugger has never seen before.

  • I smell another rat

    Strange also, ‘I smell a rat’ is also a name that slugger has not seen before – has someone told you to post what you posted under a pseudonym??

  • Splintered Sunrise

    This is a blog with a lot of detail, a bit of wit and well laid out. His recent piece on the UUP was excellent.

  • I would second Splintered Sunrise. I have enjoyed reading too many pieces there to mention.

  • Mick Fealty

    Brilliant ISMAR… Daithi definitely deserves to be up there on his own merit… And if there are new names here, all to the good.

    There’s some great reading material, but please keep them coming, even if they are very new blogs we want to hear about future stars. Remember give us some samples and above all reasons…

  • Peter Craig
  • Mack

    That East Belfast SDLP thingy is terrible (at least the link presented here was broken, I had to google it). School yard bullying of a young kid at it’s very worst. What gobshite produced that?

  • @Mack – the “East Belfast SDLP thingy” at was shut down and reappeared a few weeks later at The WordPress blog I suspect you stumbled over is some kind of sick spoof.

  • Ronnie Mac

    I’d like to nominare 3 thousand versts

    – Consistently interesting

    – Regularly updated

    – Unique international perspectives

    – Relentlessly challenging of DUP double-speak, double-jobbing, double-facedness

  • jacksayer

    alan in belfast – a great blog, who mixes his blog well with twitter. His enthusiasm for all things techie is more than clear but his real engagement on politics in a genuinely non partisan way is really heartening in the blogesphere that is becoming increasingly cluttered with advertorial linked corporate blogs. Here’s to the enthusiastic amateur, long may they hold the line against the commercialisation of blogs.

  • Slugger O’Toole Admin

    Less than 24 hours before the polls close. If there is someone missing from the list here, now is the time to get your late nominations in. Remember we NEED good reasons, not just good names!!

  • Sorry guys, what is URL? I’ve searched in acronymserach and I found out that URL can be Uniform Resource Locator (world wide web address), Universal Ride Layout, Unrestricted Line (US Navy officer designation), Unfinanced Requirements List, Upper Range Limit. Which one do you mean?