Commentary on election boundary implications of Census 2011 figures – 156 seat Dail context

The publication of preliminary population and population by area figures for the 2011 Census on June 30th point to the need for extensive boundary changes, especially in light of the government commitment to significantly reduce the number of Dail seats. The possibility of a 20-seat reduction has been ruled out by the (to some degree unexpected) extent of the population increase involved – the constitutional stipulation that the population per TD ratio in the state must lie within a 20,000 to 30,000 range means that the largest seat reduction possible amounts to a 13-seat reduction.The range between 152 and 160 seats advised in the 2011 Electoral Amendment Act suggest a number somewhere in the middle of this range may be agreed on, most likely 156 seats, amounting to a 10-seat reduction (especially as the 152-seat option has been ruled out by population growth). But what would such a reduction mean for our current constituencies? Where would these ten seats be taken from?

The rest of this post will consider what might happen our current constituency configurations if a 156 seat tally was agreed on and in light of the provisional population levels:

Carlow-Kilkenny – current population is almost perfect (population per TD ratio just 0.9% below state average) for this to remain a 5-seater, return of Hacketstown area from Wicklow constituency a possibility

Cyavan-Monaghan – with a population equivalent to 4.5 TDs, population per TD ratio (9.2% below state average) means this too small to stay a 5-seater, but too large to become a 4-seater – a territory transfer required to keep as  5-seater/reduce population so it is appropriate for a 4-seater

Clare – population per TD ratio (5.4% below state average) just barely below degree 5% variance limits to allow this remain a 4-seater, likely to stay as is. Could consider return of parts of Co. Clare currently located in Limerick City

Cork East – no need to for change, population per TD ratio as 4-seater within 5% variance limit (just 3.0% below state average)

Cork North Central – with a population per TD ratio that is 10.7% below the state average, this constituency is too small to remain a 4-seater but much too big to become a 3-seater – likelihood of territory transfer involving other Cork constituencies

Cork North West – below 5% variance limits (-7.5% below state average) to remain a 3-seater – may gain territory from a reduced (3-seat) Cork North Central to improve population per TD ratio

Cork South Central – with a population per TD ratio that is 8.1% below the state average, this is too small to remain a 5-seater, too large at present to become a 4-seater – territory transfer required to keep this as a 5-seater

Cork South West – a population per TD ratio (-6.0%) that is below the 5% variance limit but not excessively so; boundaries could well stay as is or may receive territory transfer from Cork South Central if this reduced to a 4-seater

Commentary on Cork region – the census figures would suggest that Cork’s population wouldbe equivalent to 17.6 TDs suggesting one of the Cork constituencies (either Cork North Central or Cork South Central) must lose lose a seat. Possibility also of fundamentally changing boundary configuration with a 4-seat Cork City constituency and having three constituencies (4, 4 and 5 seat constituencies) in Cork County area

Donegal North East and South West – both constituencies too small now to remain as 3-seaters – population per TD ratios are 6.0% below state average in North East and 11.3% below state average in South West – but Donegal county population is too large to allow amalgamation of these to become a separate 5-seater (population per TD ratio would be 9.6% above state average), territory transfers (and these can only involve Sligo-North Leitrim) are required but these could be tricky – is possibility of having a 5-seat Donegal constituency with part of south Donegal moved into Sligo-North Leitrim, or part of North Leitrim being joined with Donegal South West leaving Sligo and rest of Leitrim to form a three-seat constituency.

Dublin Central – with population per TD ratio 3.8% below the state average, and thus within 5% variance limits, this can stay a 4-seater

Dublin Mid West – population per TD ratio (-6.0%) just slightly below 5% variance limit, could well stay as a 4-seater with current boundaries

Dublin North – with population per TD ratio 2.8% below the state average, and thus within 5% variance limits, current population is very much apt for this to remain as a 4-seater

Dublin North Central, North West and North East – All are too small to remain as 3-seaters with their current electoral boundaries, with population per TD ratio below the state average by 15.6% in North Central, 8.0% in North East and 10.7% in North West. With the combined population of these being equivalent to 8.0 Dail seats, the three 3-seater configuration in the North City is no longer feasible, and raises the possibility of replacing these with two North City 4-seaters (0r a 3-seater/4-seater configuration if the Howth/Portmarnock/Balgriffin area was moved to Dublin North – making Dublin North a 5-seater)

Dublin South – with a population per TD ratio that is just 3.7% below the state average, this can remain as a 5-seater

Dublin South Central – likely to lose a seat (population per TD ratio (currently 13.7% below state average for a 5-seater and 7.9% above state average for a 4-seater) leaves this closer to having a population for a 4-seat constituency than a 5-constituency unless the constituency receives significant territory transfer from elsewhere. Likely to lose a seat with territory being transferred to other constituencies

Dublin South East – with a population per TD ratio 12.2% below the state average, this is too small to remain a 4-seater with its current boundaries – a territory transfer of 10,000 from Dublin South Central would solve the problem (as combined population of both equivalent to just under eight (7.8) seats), leaving two 4-seaters in the South City area

Dublin South West – with a population per TD ratio that is 10.1% below the state average, this is too small to stay as a 4-seater with its current boundaries. Disparity could be solved with territory transfer, involving transfer of (part of) the Rathfarnham electoral area into this constituency from Dublin South

Dublin West – with a population per TD ratio that is just 0.3% below the state average, this has almost perfect population levels for a 4-seater and will stay as is

Dun Laoghaire – with a population per TD ratio that is 10.7% below the state average, the population is too small to for this to stay as 4-seater, but too large to become 3-seater, territory transfers likely, possibly involving Dublin South (and, by extension, Dublin South West) with loss of one seat across these three constituencies

Commentary: With a population equivalent to 43.3 Dail seats, the Dublin region set to lose at least three Dail seats, with losses focused on inner suburbs (both the North City and South City constituencies losing seats) and the Dun Laoghaire/Dublin South/Dublin South West constituencies

Galway East and West could stay as 4 and 5 seaters, but with a small territory transfer from West to East required, given population per TD ratios that are 4.3% below the state average in Galway West and 6.3% below the state average in Galway East. If territory needs to be transferred out of Galway to bolster population in a neighbouring constituency, Galway however could well lose a seat

There is a strong likelihood that the two Kerry constituencies will be amalgamated into one 5-seat Kerry constutuency. The population per TD ratios is 8.5% below the state average in Kerry North-West Limerick and 11.7% below the state average in Kerry South, so the populations of both are too small to remain as three seaters with the current boundaries. The population of Kerry County means that a 5-seat Kerry constituency (with West Limerick moved out) would have a population per TD ratio of 1.2% below the state average so would be a more than feasible option.

Population in Kildare sufficient to retain a 4-seat Kildare North (population per TD ratio 1.9% above state average) and a 3-seat Kildare South (population per TD ratio 2.5% above state average), boundaries of both constituencies can stay as they are.

Laois-Offaly population warrants this constituency remaining as 5-seater (with a population per TD ratio 4.1% above the state average), but return of Coolderry/Moneygall area from Tipperary North could be possible if Commission allowed a +7.1% variance level.

Population of Limerick/Limerick City constituencies seems to warrant loss of seat by Limerick City – population per TD ratio is 7.5% below state average in Limerick and 13.1% below state average in Limerick City.  Return of West Limerick area from Kerry North might help Limerick to maintain seat; even though the population per TD ratio (for Limerick County/City being allocated seven seats) would be outside the 5% variance limit, at 6.9% below the state average it would not be excessively so and Commission has allowed more extreme variations in the past

Longford-Westmeath – with a population per TD ration that is 0.7% below the state average, the current population levels of this constituency are fine for this to stay a 4-seater. The return of the Coole/Castlepollard area from Meath West is possible – if this area was returned the population per TD ratio of an enlarged Longford-Westmeath would be 6.4% above the state average and Commission has allowed more extreme variations in the past

With a population per TD ratio that is 2.5% below the state average, it would be OK for Louth to remain as 5-seater with its present boundaries – without the east Meath area a Louth County constituency could return to being a 4-seater (would involve a population per TD ratio that is 4.4% above the state average)

The Mayo population is too small for this to remain a 5-seater (with a population per TD ratio that is 11.1% below the state average) but too large for a 4-seat constituency (would have a population per TD ratio 11.1% above the state average), territory transfers will be involved here, possibly involving either Sligo or Roscommon

Meath East and Meath West: the population per TD ratio that is 1.8%% below the state average in Meath East and 3.0% below the state average in Meath West, so at first glance there is no need to make boundary changes here. However the Meath county population is sufficient to have one 6-seat constituency/two 3-seat Meath West and Meath East constituencies involving just the Meath County area (would involve a population per TD ratio 4.4% above the state average) so breaches of county boundaries involving Louth and Westmeath could be addressed by going down this route.

Roscommon-South Leitrim (population per TD ratio 8.3% below the state average) and Sligo-North Leitrim (population per TD ratio 9.0% below the state average) are both too small to remain as three seaters, but too large to be amalgamated into a 5-seater. Territory transfers will be involved here and could well involve the transfer of population to/from south Donegal. There is the possibility that part of south Donegal could be added to bolster Sligo-North Leitrim’s population or even joined with both Sligo and Leitrim counties to form a new 4-seat Sligo-Leitrim, or that part of north Leitrim gets moved into Donegal South West.

Tipperary constituencies: Tipperary South (population per TD ratio 9.5% below the state average) is too small to remain as 3-seater – territory transfers from Tipperary North could solve some of this disparity but may also involve need for (further) territory transfers from Laois-Offaly and/or Waterford. There is possibility of a 5-seater amalgamated constituency comprising just the territory of Tipperary North Riding and Tipperary South Riding counties (and involving return of Coolderry/Moneygall area to Laois-Offaly, north-western Waterford area to Waterford) but with a population per TD ratio that would be 8.0% above the state average this would be pushing the outer limits of what’s permitted by the Constituency Commission under regulations on proportionality has been permitted by past precedents

Waterford – with a population per TD ratio 4.6% below the state average, the constituency has population sufficient for it to remain as 4-seater, but it could also reclaim part of county currently in Tipperary South (leaving it with a population per TD ratio 3.2% below the state average)

Wicklow and Wexford – populations are all sufficient for both these to remain as 5-seaters; the population per TD ratio is 1,.1% below the state average in Wexford and 4.1% below the state average for the Wicklow constituency, but Wicklow may still need to retain the Hacketstown area (in Co. Carlow) to remain a 5-seater as the population per TD ratio for a 5-seat Wicklow county constituency would be 7.1% below the state average

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About Adrian Kavanagh

Lecturer in Maynooth University Department of Geography.
This entry was posted in Constituency Commission, Constituency information, Election boundaries and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Commentary on election boundary implications of Census 2011 figures – 156 seat Dail context

  1. Gerard Brangan says:

    Very thorough analysis of the current situation and implications for the future; my own personal view is that we need a constitutional amendment to change the ratio of Dáil deputies to population.
    Belgium has a population of around 10 million and they have around 165 members of parliament!

  2. Pingback: Electoral boundary proposals for a 156-seat Dail | Irish General Election 2011 Facts and Figures

  3. Pingback: Thoughts on shape of new general election boundaries if the Constituency Commission opt for a 160-seat Dail | Irish General Election 2011 Facts and Figures

  4. Pingback: Thoughts on shape of new general election boundaries if the Constituency Commission opt for a 154-seat Dail | Irish General Election 2011 Facts and Figures

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