Census 2022 Provisional Figures and New Dáil Constituency Boundaries – A Case for Six Seat Constituencies?

Adrian Kavanagh, 4th July 2022

The provisional population-by-area Census 2022 were published on 23rd June 2022, showing a population level within the state of 5,123,536, marking a notable increase (of 173,613 – 7.6%) on the population level recorded for the 2016 Census (4,761,865). These are, of course, only provisional figures, but the provisional figures – especially for large geographical areas – tend to be usually very accurate; for instance, the provisional Census 2016 published back in July 2016 only under-estimated the national population figure (as published almost a year later in the final/definitive Census 2016 population-by-area figures) by 3,889 people, 0r 0.08%.)  

This now leaves an average population of 32,022.1 per Dáil Deputy across the State (for the current 160-Dáil seat context). Given that the Constitution explicitly states that the population per TD ratio nationally must not exceed 30,000 (or indeed fall below 20,000), this means that the smallest number of Dáil deputies, which can be envisaged in the upcoming Constituency Commission review of/report on Dáil constituency boundaries, is 171 (and the largest number is 256!). (NB: the one TD per 30,000 people limit in terms of the population per TD ratio does not apply to individual general election constituencies.)

A 171 seat-level would already ensure a much higher number of seats in contrast with the current membership (160 TDs) of Dáil Éireann. The range of seats that the Constituency Commission (once it is established) will get to choose from, based on previous reports, will run from 171 to 179 seats. To ensure that the national seat level does not have to change again in a subsequent report in line with expected further growth in the national population level – the Commission is likely to opt for a number at the upper end of this scale (as they did for the 2012 report).

Hence, the extent of the boundary changes that will be required will be more extensive than those required for any earlier boundary report, at least over the period since the introduction of independent commissions following on the failure of the “Tullymander” at the 1977 General Election. A new Constituency Commission report must be published within three months of the publication of the definitive Census population-by-area figures, which were published almost a year after the holding of the census in the case of the 2016 Census figures. So, there may well be a wait of up to one year before the new report is published.

Where will the new seats go to? Looking at the geographical trends in terms of population and population change levels that are evident in these provisional Census 2022 figures, the following seat gains might be expected, if the Commission opts for a 176-seat or 178-seat model:

  • At least five more seats for the Dublin region, with at least two of these seats (and potentially three seats) going to the constituencies located within Fingal County (and this potentially could require the creation of a new constituency within the Fingal County area). If the Commission opts for a 178-seat model, then Dublin may well be assigned six extra seats
  • Two more seats for Cork
  • Two more seats for the Midlands region, with the likelihood of an extra seat for Longford-Westmeath (in addition to the return of the Delvin area from Meath West) and the re-creation of the Laois and Offaly three-seat constituencies
  • Two more seats to be shared out between Kildare and Meath, especially if the east Meath area is returned from the Louth constituency (which no longer needs east Meath as there is sufficient population to allow Louth County be a stand-alone five-seat constituency)
  • One more seat for the Galway-Mayo region
  • Seat gains for the following five-seat constituencies; Carlow-Kilkenny, Wexford, Tipperary, and Donegal, as well as Dublin Fingal (as noted above)

Unless a new Electoral Act allows for a change in the terms of reference for the Commission, the number of seats that can be in any Dáil constituency will range from three to five. As it stands, this may result in an enforced number of county boundary breaches, with, for instance, territory being moved from Laois to Offaly and from Kilkenny to Carlow to allow for sufficient population to sustain three-seat constituencies in Carlow and Offaly. Some larger counties, such as Wexford, Donegal, and Tipperary, would need to be split into two three-seat constituencies to account for population growth and the overall increase in Dáil seat numbers. As happened in 2004, the Commission may also end up having to split Leitrim between two Sligo-North Leitrim and Roscommon-South Leitrim three-seat constituencies, while difficulties in adding extra seats to Fingal while operating under the constraints of three, four and five seat constituency units, could yet again require the town of Swords to be split within two constituencies.  Such moves would also lead to an overall increase in the number of three-seat constituencies and notably reduce district magnitude levels within the State, thus effectively reducing the overall proportionality levels.

The potential to have six-seat constituencies, however, would mean that a number of county boundary breaches would be avoided, as well as a potential mushrooming in the number of smaller, and hence less proportional, three-seat constituencies. If a new Electoral Act was brought in to change the terms of reference for the Constituency Commission to allow them to use six-seat constituencies, even if in a limited number of cases, this would by no means be a bad thing, especially as it would allow the Commission a greater degree of flexibility in trying to limit the number of county boundary breaches, which – based on trends evident in public submissions to previous Commissions – tends to be the main source of discontent for voters when it comes to changing constituency boundaries. 

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Selected/Declared Candidates for the Dublin Bay South By-Election (8th July 2021)

Adrian Kavanagh, 15th June 2021

This post will list all the officially selected/declared candidates for the upcoming Dublin Bay South by-election, which will take place on Thursday 8th July 2021.

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Ministerial and Junior Ministerial appointments by Dáil constituency (June/July 2020)

Adrian Kavanagh, 27th June 2020

This post will look at ministerial appointments by Dáil constituency and by region, following the election of Micheál Martin as the new Taoiseach on 27th June 2020 and the subsequent appointment of a new cabinet, including Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Green Party Dail deputies, as well as the announcement also of a number of junior ministerial appointments, with a number of other junior ministerial appointments announced, a few days later, on 1st July 2020.

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Elections to 26th Seanad (2020): Lists of Officially Nominated Candidates

Adrian Kavanagh, 17th February 2020

Elsewhere on this site, I have compiled a list of the candidates for the 2020 Dáil elections, but this post lists the officially nominated candidates for the 2020 Seanad elections. The closing date for candidate nominations (14th February 2020) has now past (and we do have a final list of candidates) for the University (NUI, Trinity) constituencies, as well as a final list of candidates nominated by the “Outside Panels” for the Vocational Panel contests and now (as of 2nd March 2020) the Oireachtas/Inside Panels.

147 candidates are listed here, as contesting these elections.

46 (31.3%) of these are female and 101 (68.7%) of these are male.

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Saturday’s Election – Why Your Vote Matters

Adrian Kavanagh, 6th February 2020

On Saturday 8th February, over two million voters across the state will go to the polls to cast their votes at General Election 2020. The results of this election will be determined by many factors – some of these being local, some being national and some maybe even having a European or global focus – but voter turnout levels on the day will also have a major bearing. Voting matters and – in this post – I will discuss why.

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Donegal South West in maps

Given that a series of by-elections are scheduled to take place at the end of November, probably only a few months ahead of a general election contest, this old Adrian Kavanagh post on the politicalreform.ie website might be of some interest, given the parallels that might exist between the 2010 contest in Donegal South-West and the upcoming by-election contests.

Irish Politics Forum

Pearse Doherty support by ED in Donegal South West, 2007 General Election

Adrian Kavanagh, 17 November 2010

Red C opinion poll figures for the Donegal South West by-election and the subsequent general election in that constituency provide ill tidings for Fianna Fail but offer very good news for Sinn Fein and Labour in that constituency.  But past electoral trends suggest that geographical factors/local voting trends will also need to be taken account of here. This post will look especially at geographical voting trends for the last general election in this constituency, based on an analysis and mapping of tally figures for that election. It suggests that the final result can be predicted based on early tallies by knowing the geography of voting in this constituency.

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Donegal South West by election: The numbers…

Given that a series of by-elections are scheduled to take place at the end of November, probably only a few months ahead of a general election contest, this old Adrian Kavanagh post on the politicalreform.ie website might be of some interest, given the parallels that might exist between the 2010 contest in Donegal South-West and the upcoming by-election contests.

Irish Politics Forum

Adrian Kavanagh, 5 November 2010

On the basis of the most recent general election results in Donegal South West, this might be expected to be one constituency where Fianna Fail could actually have a realistic chance of winning a by-election (thus becoming the first government party to do so since Noel Treacy won the Galway East by-election in 1982), but a study of local election result trends in the three electoral areas that this Dail constituency is comprised of – Donegal (Town), Glenties and Stranorlar – offers a more sobering portrait for Fianna Fail and offers Fine Gael hope that they could be the party to win this by-election, thus offering prospects of yet another electoral success in western Ireland for the “Kenny Krusade”.

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Candidates for the 2019 Dáil By-Elections: An Overview

Adrian Kavanagh, 12th September 2019

In the May 2019 European Elections Deputies Clare Daly and Frances Fitzgerald won seats in the Dublin constituency, while Deputies Mick Wallace and Billy Kelleher won seats in the South constituency. This means that their seats in the Dublin Fingal, Dublin Mid-West, Wexford and Cork North-Central Dáil constituencies are now vacant and would need to be filled by a by-election in each of these constituencies before the end of the year, unless a General Election was called in the intervening period. On 7th November 2019 it was announced that these by-election contests would take place on Friday 29th November 2019.

In this post, I will be detailing the names of the candidates who have been selected to contest the Dáil by-elections in these constituencies

Currently there are forty six candidates listed here – fifteen are female (32.6%) and thirty one are male (67.4%). This list includes three Senators (6.5%) and nineteen City/County Councillors (41.3%), including three former Dáil deputies.

As of now, there are 13 candidates listed here as contesting the Dublin Mid-West constituency, with 12 candidates listed as contesting Cork North-Central, 12 candidates listed as contesting Dublin Fingal and 9 candidates listed as contesting Wexford.

As and when new candidates are confirmed between now and these elections – and as soon as possible after I become aware of this information – I will be updating this post to include their names.

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City and County Council Members – Co-options and Changes since the 2019 Local Elections

Adrian Kavanagh, 2nd September 2019 (with subsequent updates – latest update: 21 November 2022)

The 2019 Local Elections resulted in the election of 949 City and County Councillors. Since that election took place on 24th May 2019, I have estimated that at least 94 of the successful candidates in these elections have either stood down, been “promoted”, or have sadly passed away. 

Moreover, at least eight of the new Councillors co-opted to replace these Councillors have themselves resigned from their new role, bringing the total number of City/County Councllors who have either stood down, been “promoted”, or have sadly passed away up to 102 (10.75% of the total number).

67 of the former Councillors in this group are male (65.7%) and 35 are female (34.3%).

46 (46.9%) of the co-options/new Councillors are male, while 52 are female (53.1%).

This means that the total number of female City and County Councillors has increased notably (relative to the number of female candidates elected at the May 2019 elections); going from 226 (23.8% of total number of Councillors elected at the 2019 Local Elections) to 243 (25.7% of the total number of City/County Councillors, at this point).

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The 2019 Local Elections: A Geographer’s Overview

Adrian Kavanagh, 28th March 2019

The 2019 City and County Council elections took place on 28th May 2019.

Perhaps the most notable trend at this election was to do with voter turnout. The average turnout level for the 2019 Local Elections is estimated to stand at 49.7%. This means that more than half the of the registered electorate did not turn out to vote in a local election contest for first time in the State’s history. To me, that’s a disaster. Furthermore, there seems to have been a notable drop in turnout levels, over and above the national average level of decline, in some working class areas, resulting in some very low turnout levels in electoral areas such as Tallaght South (26.9%), where barely over a quarter of the people, who were on the electoral register, turned out to vote.

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