146-seat Dail boundary configuration means very few breaches of county boundaries

Adrian Kavanagh, 17 May 2011

One of the main aims set down for the Constituency Commission is for the committee to avoid, if practicable breaching county boundaries when drawing up new/revising Dail constituency boundaries (with the exception of local authority boundaries within the Dublin region), but the more pertinent requirements of proportionality often results in the breaching of these, most recently evident in the 2007 revisions when, for instance, part of Offaly was moved into the Tipperary North constituency and part of Meath into the enlarged 5-seat Louth constituency. Recent speculation that there may be a significant reduction in the number of Dail seats by up to 20 seats may lead one to expect further breaches of county boundaries. But, based on analysis relating to 2006 Census population figures I would suggest that new election bounaries for a reduced, 146-seat, Dail could be drawn up involving relatively few breaches of county boundaries and indeed a number of the current breaches could be easily redressed.Based on the 2006 Census population figures, the average population per TD within the state for a 146-seat Dail would have been 29,006. In light of this and having studied population figures for different constituencies and counties in that census, I would suggest the following boundary configurations. (Note that all of these are based on current county boundaries, or a combination of these, not the current Dail constituencies bearing the same names. This configuration would see the reunification of counties and the return to their counties of those parts of Offaly, Carlow, Waterford, Meath and Limerick that currently are joined with neighbouring counties to form Dail constituencies.) 

Munster Seats Variance %
Cork City 4 2.6
Cork County North 4  
Cork County South(-West) 4  
Cork County East 4 4.4
Kerry 5 5.3
Limerick County (West) 3  
Limerick City (East) 3 1.2
Clare County 4 -4.5
Tipperary 5 6.7
Waterford 4 -7.1
Connacht-Ulster 40  
Galway City+environs/Galway West 4  
Galway County/Galway East 4 -0.6
North West (Leitrim-Roscommon-Sligo) 5 2.6
Mayo 4 6.6
Donegal 5 1.4
Cyavan-Monaghan 4 3.3
  26  
Leinster (Rest of)    
Wexford* 5  
Wicklow* 4 -1.4
Carlow and Kilkenny 5 -5.0
Laois and Offaly 5 -5.0
Kildare North 3  
Kildare South 3 6.9
Longford and Westmeath 4 -2.1
Meath East 3  
Meath West 3 -6.7
Louth 4 -4.2
  39  
Dublin    
Fingal County East/Dublin North 4  
Fingal County West/Dublin West 4 3.7
South Dublin County East/Dublin South West 4  
South Dublin County West/Dublin Mid West 5 -5.5
Dun Laoghaire East/Dun Laoghaire 3  
Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown West/Dublin South 4 -4.7
Dublin South City East/Dublin South East 3  
Dublin South City West/Dublin South Central 4 3.9
Dublin North City West/Dublin North West 5  
Dublin North City East/Dublin North East 5 1.4
  41  
     
State 146  

As the table shows, the population per TD ratio for most of these suggested constiuencies would fall within the accepted degree of variance (plus or minus 5 per cent) in most cases. In the cases of Kerry, Tipperary, Waterford, Mayo and the Kildare constituencies, the level of variance does exceed the 5% variance threshold but all these fall within the certain degree of leeway (up to plus or minus 7.89 per cent) that past commissions have allowed based on the 1983 Mayo East precedent.  The only region where a breach of county boundaries would be required involved neighbouring Wicklow and Wexford – neither county would have a sufficiently large population to become 5-seat constituencies on their own but neither are their populations sufficiently small enough to all them become 4-seats based on their county areas. In this case, a population transfer from south Wicklow to Wexford would be required to redress the imbalance leading to the creation of a 5-seat Wexford (or Wexford-South Wicklow) and a 4-seat Wicklow (rest of) constituency with population per TD ratios for both of these falling within the accepted degree of variance from the state average.

This analysis also shows that it is more than feasible to take cognisance of local authority boundaries within the Dublin region when redrawing the constituency boundaries. This would involve the simple splitting of the three different local authority areas in the old Dublin County along lines not too dissimilar to current Dail constituency boundaries (but which would require the return of territory across county/local authority lines for Dail elections – e.g. returning Howth, Sutton and Portmarnock areas to Fingal County from present day Dublin North East, returning Rathfarnham to South Dublin County from the present day Dublin South constituency and returning Templeogue (Kimmage Manor area) to South Dublin County from the present day Dublin South Central constituency).

Finally, these figures show that allowing for larger sized (more seats) constituencies could further rule out the need for county boundary breaches – allowing for the creation of 6, 7, 8 and 9 seat constituencies (as well as allowing for greater potential respresentation of currently under-represented groups within Irish society) would give boundary makers greater leeway. In this instance the need to breach the Wicklow-Wexford county boundaries would not be necessary as they could both be facilitated within a 9-seat Wexford-Wicklow constituency.

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About Adrian Kavanagh

Lecturer in Maynooth University Department of Geography.
This entry was posted in Constituency information, Election boundaries, Electoral Geography (voting maps) and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to 146-seat Dail boundary configuration means very few breaches of county boundaries

  1. Dermot Looney says:

    Templeogue’s in Dublin SW – not SC.

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