Over the past few months Slugger’s attention has been looking towards the South. At the moment there are some really interesting policy debates going on in Dublin and there is (in my opinion) a radical shift in the political dynamic happening. It has always been my view that our unique approach can really add to this debate.
In the hurley/burley of political debate, sometimes it can get a bit fraught and it is easy to descend into abuse. We always take pride in our “play the ball, not the man rule” and endeavour to ensure this is adhered to by everybody.
So, it is excellent to see that Noel Whelan in the Irish Times has promoted our approach to political debates in his recent Irish Times column on the recent attacks on President Higgins as he writes;
Thirteen years ago, when the Northern Ireland blogger Mick Fealty first launched the news and opinion site Sluggerotoole.com, he introduced one rigid rule for posts and comments. He sums it up as “play the ball not the man”.
In 2002 online comment was more courteous. Notwithstanding the ongoing peace negotiations, Northern Ireland politics was still brutish and divisive. Fealty saw the need to ensure that while contributors could and would be encouraged to engage in robust debate on the issues, he and his moderators would not permit personal attacks. They maintain and monitor that policy to date, which is why Slugger has developed a reputation for hosting a mostly intelligent dialogue on a range of controversial and important issues in Irish and British politics.
A “play the ball, rather than the man (or woman)” rule would be a good starting point for greater civility in our wider public discourse. Our politics is likely to be even more volatile as the election approaches. The potential for an even more abusive political atmosphere is therefore greater.
A real respect for the views of others and for their right to express those views would also go along way towards more informed and more effective politics.
David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs