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TellUsWhy.ie - Irish website tries to move presidential race beyond a soap opera

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Here's a great idea that got noticed a little late in the day to maximize its potential.

TellUsWhy.ie departs from a simple premise: that candidates for the presidency need to tell us why they're fit for the job rather than engage in a mud-slinging contest trying to unearth the latest scandal.

The website seems to have got going around January (see an Irish Independent piece dated around that date, here) but hasn't received the attention it deserves.

With just a little over a week left until ballot day, most of the electorate, myself included, are left with that frustrating  feeling that while we understand what kind of letters David Norris wrote, what boards Mary David sat on, and approximately what sort of role Martin McGuinness played in the IRA's bloody past, we know precious little about what each of the respective candidates actually stand for.

'Tell Us Why' could have been more than a website -- it could have become a national slogan for a disenfranchised and under-informed electorate left bewildered by the media sandstorm.

The website, the brainchild of Trinity College politics student, Daniel Philbin Bowman (a son of veteran RTE broadcaster John Bowman) has managed to post four questions to candidates so far, and received a response from each, but four dozen questions (and perhaps a nicer layout) would have been more helpful.

Nevertheless it's a great idea, and one which could have really engaged the public had people not been so distracted by the often lurid allegations flying back and forth.

And the fallout from those lurid allegations is now the largest reason why many may choose not to vote come election day.

As the official literature comes flying in the letterbox and the canvassing draws to a close, making an educated decision as to who to vote for seems extremely difficult -- particularly as the fact that there are also two referenda to vote on gains public attention.

One commentator pointed out that as the Irish president essentially assumes a figurehead role there are no real policies or manifestos to advance and counter-- thus the race for the job has become little more than a thinly glorified popularity contest involving desperate attempts by each candidate to denigrate the others.

That may be the case, but after three months of the 'soap opera' as it's now often dubbed, myself, and most of the country, are still at a loss as to who to vote for on election day. Perhaps someone could have told us why!

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