Sunday, October 08, 2006


Publish and Be Damned?

First – the good news: it looks like the acquisition of a school site has been resolved at Laytown, with the news that the Department of Education has acquired the land necessary for the new primary school. Well done to all of those who helped to make this happen over the last few years, months and weeks.

The whole issue of additional development on the open spaces of settled developments is one that appears time and again across the County. One reason for this was the change in residential density guidelines from the government a few years ago; this increased the number of houses allowable per acre in our towns and villages.

Some might say that was the government pandering to their friendly developers, but it could also be argued that it was simply a reflection of the need to use our urban land more intensively (and sustainably). Personally, I don’t have a huge problem with higher densities per se (I’ve lived on the 23rd floor of an apartment block before), so I am happy for higher densities to be allowable in some locations. However, I have a major problem with higher densities being imposed on settled estates. If houses are not put in at the time the estate is first occupied then we should forget it. Higher densities? Only in the right place at the right time.

La Mare estate in Stamullen is one estate affected by this. In brief, the developer originally held on to a property adjoining the space earmarked for open space. As the estate was never "handed over" to the council he legally retained the ownership of the land designated as open space. A couple of years ago he sold off the property and the open space to another party.

One morning the residents woke up to find that the new owner had put an application in to build on their open space. We fought that application all the way to An Bord Pleanala and won. Since then the council has been seeking to get a transfer of the open space from the new owner.

In fairness to the new owner, it appears that it was never made clear to him that the land he bought was meant to be open space. He now seems to be co-operating with the council in the transfer of land, but it is taking an age to complete the transfer.

Meanwhile, he has decided to sell the property he bought and it’s now on the market again.

La Mare
House for sale in La Mare, Stamullen

For anyone who is thinking of buying this site, can I advise you to knock on a few of the neighbours doors, or come to me and we will give you the whole story. Don’t buy this site without doing your research!

I attended the first ever “Blogging the Election” Conference in Dublin on Saturday. I was on a panel of three with Damian Blake (FF) and Ciaran Cuffe (Green) to discuss issues in relation to politicians’ blogs. I thought that I’d use the occasion to discuss the issue of “comment management”, or moderation as it’s more technically known as (or “censorship” as some posters on my blog have called it). I asked for the advice of the audience: should politicians moderate their comments or should they allow all posts to be published.

My motivation for this was my recent experience over the last couple of months. I have been getting comments in relation to my performance, behaviour etc. in relation to Laytown school. I removed one person’s comments and got criticised for that. Also, Labour HQ’s IT boffin did some clever analysis of my site’s traffic statistics and seemingly five different negative posts came from the same computer within the space of a few hours. Obviously I want to allow all relevant comment, and am happy to allow negative comments if they are not an orchestrated attempt to “spike” the site, but I have to be careful on some grounds (including libel!).

Blogging Conference
Speaking at the "Blogging the Election" Conference in Dublin

It turns out that one of the other politicians on the panel does “moderate” comments, and indeed a few people in the audience implied that I was mad to even consider allowing a non-moderated blog. Sure, a non-moderated blog allows political opponents to mix in comments with the genuinely critical, but comment management can go too far - the singer George Michael closed down the comment line on his site because some nasty posters suggested he was getting fat!). I’d like to find a solution that works and keeps people interested. I also love the fact that some people use it to converse with each other even after I have “left the room”.

I’d be interested to receive views on this. I want this blog to be as interactive as possible, but it wouldn’t be right to let a few hackers spoil it. Should I allow all posts, and assume that the reader is sensible enough to spot the mischievous ones from the perfectly valid “annoyed” ones? Should I moderate just those which may be libellous? Should I just allow posts from my mum?

Oh, and any posts that refer to my expanding waist line will instantly be removed.

Agree with you on the density. Nothing wrong with it per se. How much is an appartment in Manhattan or Temple Bar these days?

High density is actually optimal and preferred if two things can be achieved.

1./ Variety. mix work, retail housing and demographics, that way there is always neighbourhood activity.

2./ Concentrate the open space and make it somewhere that will be used. All the new developments have open space, but they are little more than patches of grass, how can that be used? Why would you need a large garden if you had an excellent park with a cafe where you could walk to and read the paper and hang out.

Comments are good. Shows credibility and willingness to listen to your consituency. Keep them.

Should discourage anonymous bloggers. Can also block IP addresses of abusers.
You've uncovered a fate worse than unwelcome commentators--blogging expands waistlines. You certainly noticed that effect when in the Digital Hub because some of the most active Irish bloggers are on the plump side.

Be very careful of the company you keep!

By the way, you sound concientious on the podcast of your session:
Allowing comment is important. Don't run at the suggestion that comments might be libellous.

If we let the doomsayers rule, we're all finished!
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