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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 September 2006, 11:09 GMT 12:09 UK
Blogging trickle may soon flood
By Arthur Strain
BBC News Online, Belfast

The perception of bloggers - almost always unfair - is that they are sad people sitting in their underwear rooted in front of a computer all day writing about how much worse their fungal nail infection is getting to an audience of three friends.

However, a number of Northern Ireland's politicians have been getting in on the act, with the blogging rather than the infection.

Blogs screenshot
There is reputedly a blog born every half a second

There is nothing unusual about a political blog, Boris Johnson has one after all, and there are many blogs about Northern Ireland politics and culture from 'Slugger O'Toole' to 'A Tangled Web'.

Not many Northern Ireland politicians have taken the plunge so far, but with a new blog said to be being created every half a second, it can only be a matter of time before the trickle becomes a stream.

North Down Alliance Councillor Ian J Parsley is one of the few elected NI politicos venturing into the world wide web's diary, not on a mission to convert, but to explain.

"It is more of a narrative about what it is like to be a local, elected representative, a lot of people are not aware that it is unpaid," he said of his blog.

He said that blogging was something younger politicians should examine as a way of explaining what they do to their electorate.

Steering clear of too much politics is a key, turning a blog into a press release archive is unlikely to enhance its appeal to readers.

While planning issues in North Down and meetings of the local Alliance Association get a run out on Mr Parsley's blog, so does political humour.

But whether the DUP's Big Ian Paisley should join Ian Parsley in cyberdebate is a different matter.

Ian J Parsley
Ian J Parsley said he was aiming for a narrative

Mr Parsely said blogging is probably not the right path for more senior party members.

"They should speak through the party," he added.

Judgement should always be used. A poorly thought-out comment may return to haunt the unsuspecting politician.

"You need to be watchful, but then again, it can be something you can reference back to later," Mr Parsley said.

He is not the only North Down council blogger, the Ulster Unionist Party's Marion Smith has been an online presence since 2004, and her party's Young Unionists have an active team of bloggers.

Launched in 2004, its editor, Michael Shilliday, said that it was the first party political blog in Ireland.

He said that blogs were becoming an increasingly important tool for political activism and that, with continued technological advances, the use of the form would only continue to increase.

"It is a good way to exchange ideas and to broadcast the diversity of the unionist party," he said.

Mr Shilliday said they were getting a healthy amount of traffic on the blog and that it was almost exclusively from younger people, citing the ease of use of the internet and that people could look at posts "at their own pace".

There are nationalist bloggers, but none of them are party affiliated at present, although 'El Blogador' has an SDLP slant and 'Balrog' gives a more Sinn Fein republican flavour.

Likewise the DUP's blog presence is largely limited with the; "We Perish If We Yield" blog espousing the party's views.

With the Conservative Party in Northern Ireland launching their own blog last month, the trickle could be picking up pace already.


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