How our MLAs fare on Twitter: North Down

18 Feb 2015 Nick Garbutt    Last updated: 22 Feb 2015

North Down MLAs on Twitter
North Down MLAs on Twitter

US President Barack Obama reinvented social media as a tool for political success and his exploits have been copied across the world. Scope examines how our politicians are exploiting the new media.

Twitter is a great place for politicians to interact with voters, to give their views on policies, to demonstrate their commitment to their constituencies and to bring to peoples’ attention matters that are not in the media.

In this series Scope will look at how our MLAs are using this exciting and important communications tool. We start in one of the wealthiest constituencies, North Down.

Here sits Dr Stephen Farry Minister at the Department of Employment and Learning and custodian of the skills strategy for Northern Ireland. But if improving digital knowledge is at the heart of that programme the Minister appears to have exempted himself from its strictures.

He does have a Twitter account which he opened three years ago. There is no picture of him, instead we have a curious image of an egg. Dr Farry has yet to tweet either so his 385 followers must be beside themselves with excitement by now as they await his first bon mot.

Farry however is one up on Alex Easton. Scope could not find his account … that’s assuming that the Alex Easton account that features a tattoed woman in a slinky dress has nothing whatsoever to do with this distinguished DUP MLA.

The Ulster Unionist Leslie Cree is on a journey of discovery, albeit in the slow lane. He has tweeted 54 times to date and has 479 followers, although you have to go back to August of last year for his last contribution, which was a lament on the plight of the humble bee.

In comparison Gordon Dunne of the DUP is positively flying with 1173 followers: although there is more on his timeline extolling the virtues of Ulster Rugby and our various golfers than the finer points of Welfare Reform or the Conscience Clause.

His heavyweight colleague Peter Weir is one of just two MLAs in this constituency to really embrace social media. He has 2048 followers and does tweet about political activity and policy together with his love for Dairy Milk chocolate. However he only follows 198 people, missing the opportunity to hear more from his constituents. Social media used well is as much about listening as putting across your views.

If good use of social media guaranteed political success the Green Party’s Steven Agnew would romp home in North Down. He has a very impressive 8285 followers, comfortably more than all the other MLAs combined. He constantly tweets about what he is doing, linking in with broadcasters over his TV and radio appearances. Significantly he follows 5269 people, many of whom will be constituents. He is keeping his ear close to the ground.


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