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Dublin: 9 °C Tuesday 31 March, 2020

Oireachtas debate tracker back in business

The website, which allows the public to keep track of debates in the Oireachtas, was knocked offline by changes within Leinster House.

A POPULAR WEBSITE which helps members of the public to keep up to date with business in Leinster House has returned to full service after a seven month interruption. was left unable to track debates in the Dáil or Seanad when Oireachtas authorities changed their internal IT systems, moving to a website which did not support a feed in the programming language XML.

Authorities said the moves were part of a cost-cutting drive to cut down on work for outside agencies – which saw transcripts of Dáil and Seanad debates moved from, which included an XML feed, to which has no such function.

XML is a popular markup language used to export raw data in a way that can be easily manipulated by other services and internet users. This format allowed to interpret transcripts and send email updates to users, for example, notifying them whenever a certain TD spoke in the Dáil.

The site’s administrator John Handelaar said the absence of an XML function in the new site meant the site had to be rebuilt from scratch, with a new engine built to ‘scrape’ records from the new Oireachtas website and convert it into XML.

He told it had taken several months, with 12-hour days for the last month or so, in order to rebuild the site and allow it to catch up with the debates it had missed in the meantime.

Full functionality should return from tomorrow, when the site will begin to automatically populate with details of Dail and Seanad debates taking place each day.

Handelaar added that the work would not have been possible without the generosity of users who donated to a fundraising effort to revive the site, which brought in donations totalling around €9,000.

That money was distributed to a not-for-profit company, MyGov Ltd, which is the vehicle behind and other endeavours such as, where residents of some counties can report issues in their locality.

Oireachtas authorities had said the disruption to was an unintended consequence of its internal transitions, but the disruption prompted ire from many TDs and Senators who said the site was a way of helping the public to keep up to speed with their performance in Leinster House. uses open-source code developed by TheyWorkForYou, a site which offers similar debate-tracking features for debates in UK parliaments including the Northern Ireland Assembly.

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About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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