Mick Fealty was born in Belfast. He came to England in 1983 after a year at the Ulster Poly, and then spent ten years working throughout Europe with a language arts organization specializing in participatory course workshops. Since 1997 Mick has worked on a range of applied research and journalism projects. He is a visiting research associate at the Institute of Governance at Queens University Belfast, and lives in Dorset with his partner Fay and three children, Niall, Áine and Eve. Mick is editor of the monthly e-magazine Britain and Ireland and blogs at Slugger O'Toole.
Why do you blog? > To find and mark the best writing on Northern Irish politics and culture, to share it with a wider audience, and see if new things can arise out of the conversation that follows. I'm not keen on pushing one particular line over another. I prefer to let each story slowly assert its own various truths.
What has been your best blogging experience? > Undoubtedly the blogging I've been able to do from the ground. That includes a couple of Northern Ireland elections, and ten days I spent reporting in Abuja, Nigeria. The time there was equally split between reporting from the ground and from the media centre of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > Being threatened with legal action by a high profile journalist over the comments three or four readers left on Slugger during the last general election campaign. In the end we dealt with it amicably, but it took a long time to get to a position we could both live with.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Listen as much as you write. Be prepared to shift your attitude and welcome the opportunity to be corrected. And keep on doing it. You'll get better at it every day.
What are your favourite blogs? > Mickey Kaus's Kausfiles. He's sharp, witty and tough on himself before he actually blogs. He also demonstrates that you can work within the mainstream (albeit online) and maintain the directness that makes blogging so compelling. Jeff Jarvis – a blogger's blogger. He's thoughtful, measured and interested in sustainable ways of pushing the blogging envelope. I also keep an eye on an Irish blog called Irish Corruption. I think there is huge potential for blogs to fill the space, long since abandoned by mainstream journalism, of careful and accurate reporting on big government, big business and unofficial centres of otherwise unaccountable power.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > I don't really have an intellectual hero. But in The Reinvention of Politics Ulrich Beck quotes Kandinsky's essay 'And'. Beck writes: 'While the nineteenth century was dominated by Either-or, the twentieth century was to be devoted to work on And. Formerly: separation, specialisation, efforts at clarity and the calculability of the world; now: simultaneity, mulitplicity, uncertainty, the issue of connections, cohesion, experiments with exchange, the excluded middle, synthesis, ambivalence'. I'm not sure Kandinsky's timing is so clearly defined by history. But it hints at both the multiple richness of Joyce, a literary precursor of the internet interconnected age, and the black and white truths of the cold war. It underlines the reality that simple truth is also complex, and that conversations are vital in clarifying, polarizing, connecting and ultimately moving on.
What are you reading at the moment? > Too many newspapers and not enough books. I regret not having the necessary time and space to read poetry.
What is your favourite poem? > Can I have two? 'Carrickfergus' by Louis McNeice, for all manner of very personal reasons. I grew up living in a house from the bedroom windows of which we could see Carrick each night, 'Under the peacock aura of a drowning moon'. And in a kind of poetic reverse to the poet, it's in Dorset that I've spent most of my adult life, 'Far from the mill girls, the smell of porter and the salt mines/And the soldiers with their guns'. The other is 'Tobar' by Irish language poet Cathal O'Searcaigh. I'm not an immediate fan of his. He's a tad miserable in a lot of his writing. 'Tobar', though, is a near perfect elegy for the passing of an older way of life, and its identity with the springwell that was common to every family's holding in Donegal. It exactly reflects my childhood summers, when we used to totter with two overflowing plastic buckets from the well up to the house on my uncle's farm.
Who is your favourite composer? > Beethoven, probably. I've not the most comprehensive knowledge of classical music. But I love the last movement of the Ninth Symphony and its faith in common humanity. I have a soft spot for Schubert's song cycles. I save 'Winterreise' for when I'm on my own cooking, since no one else in the family can stand it.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > Pluralism.
Who are your political heroes? > Tony Benn. He has many inconsistencies in his political overview, but I admire him for his steadfastness.
Do you think you could ever be married to, or in a long-term relationship with, someone with radically different political views from your own? > No. But then again, I don't think I've ever been challenged in that respect.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Integrity.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Bombast.
What is your favourite proverb? > 'Tus maith, leath na hoibre' – 'A good start is half the job'.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > My children's future.
What would you call your autobiography? > The Lord Loves A Trier, or Struggling Manfully.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > Donegal.
What would your ideal holiday be? > A month on a farm in Calabria.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > Walking the dogs.
What is your most treasured possession? > My father's rosary beads.
If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to? > Paid.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > A politician, preferably unaligned. I'd love the opportunity to participate in political debate as part of my living.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > Tommy Cooper. He had a genius for self-deprecation and a keen sense of the ridiculous. I was gutted when he died.
Who are your sporting heroes? > George Best.
Which English Premiership football team do you support? > Manchester City. I'm a sucker for the underdog. Though since I lived in Northern Ireland when I began supporting them (and had the choice of any English team), I have more than once wondered if I got the choice right.
[The normblog profile is a weekly Friday morning feature. A list of all the profiles to date, and the links to them, can be found here.]