Electoral boundary proposals for a 156-seat Dail

Until the Constituency Commission decides on the exact number of seats that will be in the next Dail – they have been set a range from 152 to 160 seats (or effectively a 153 to 160 seats range, as the 152 option would breach the constitutional limit that there must be no more than 30,000 people for every TD) – it is hard to determine what the shape of electoral boundary arrangements might be. Perhaps the more likely option might be the 156-seat option – it is an even number and is close to the lower limit of the range set by the 2011 Electoral (Amendment) Act, but not too close. So what changes to constituency boundaries might be involved in a situation (as referenced in an earlier post) where there will be 10 fewer Dail seats? Here are my sugggestions – suggestions which, if taken up, could save the time and expense of setting up a new Constituency Commission! 🙂 🙂

Munster region: The number of seats in the Cork region will fall again by one and it is growing increasingly unfeasible to have five constituencies in this region. I would propose the creation of a 4-seat Cork City area (based entirely on the formal boundaries of the Cork City Council area) and three constituencies in the Cork County area (two 5-seat and one 4-seat constituencies). (If the Commission decided to retain the current constituency configuration in the Cork region, the likely scenario here would involve either Cork North Central or Cork South Central with territory transfers involving these and the Cork North West and Cork South West constituencies. There would be no need to change the Cork East boundaries.)

Kerry’s population level is ideal for the county to form a 5-seat constituency. The return of the West Limerick area (from Kerry North-West Limerick) and added territory (equivalent to c. 5,000 population) means that Limerick County and City could still sustain 7 Dail seats, but there may be merit in awarding giving the Limerick County constituency an extra seat at the expense of Limerick City. The creation of a 5-seat Tipperary constituency (amalgamating (most of) Tipperary North and Tipperary South) would be feasible if there was a territory transfer  (equivalent to c. 5,000 population) from south Tipperary to Waterford to balance the populations.

Munster Seats Variance %
Cork City 4 1.7
Cork County North 5
Cork County South (or West) 5
Cork County East 4 -2.0 (avge)
Kerry 5 -1.2
Limerick County (West) 4 -4.2
Limerick City (East) 3 -4.9
Clare* 4 -4.8
Tipperary 5 4.6
Waterford 4 1.1

Connacht-Ulster region: The trickier regions to address in this review will probably be Connacht-Ulster and Dublin. In Connacht-Ulster there are a number of constituencies with populations too small to sustain their current number of Dail deputies, but too large to warrant the removal of one of their seats, based on their current boundaries. Galway is probably an exception to this rule as both its constituencies have (just about) sufficient population to warrant Galway retaining its nine seats – there would need to be a small territory transfer (equivalent to c. 1,000 population) from Galway West to Galway East however.

A significant change to boundaries in the rest of the region is required given that all of these are currently over-represented (their population per TD ratios are significantly (i.e. more than 5%) lower than the state average) but a simple reduction of a seat cannot solve this over-representation in any of these cases (as this would leave the constituencies now significantly under-represented). My proposed changes would link Mayo and Roscommon on the one hand, while linking Donegal, Cavan-Monaghan, Sligo and Leitrim together on the other hand. I would propose the creation of a 3-seat Roscommon-East Mayo constituency – with the transfer of territory (equivalent to c. 19,500 population) from Mayo to Roscommon – leaving the rest of Mayo county to form a four seat constituency.

The over-representation of Donegal North-East, Donegal South-West and Cavan-Monaghan would be addressed by amalgamating the Donegal constituencies to form a 5-seat Donegal constituency and taking a seat from Cyavan-Monaghan. These constituencies would be thus seriously under-represented, but their populations could be balanced by transferring out territory from south Donegal (equivalent to c. 8,000 population) and west Cavan (equivalent to c. 12,000 population) to join up with the counties of Sligo and Leitrim to form a 4-seat constituency.

Galway West 5 -5.0
Galway East 4 -5.4
Sligo-Leitrim 4 -0.4
Mayo 4 -5.3
Roscommon-East Mayo 3 -5.5
Donegal 5 4.1
Cavan-Monaghan 4 3.3

Leinster: Strong population growth in much of this region over the 2006-11 period means that the Leinster constituencies can all sustain the increases in population per TD ratio brought about by the reduced number of Dail seats without the need for significant electoral boundary redrawals and without the need for a significant loss of seats by this region (at most, one). But it would be possible to address some of the current county boundary breaches involving Offaly, Carlow, Meath and Westmeath counties. I would propose the return of the Hacketstown area from Wicklow to Carlow-Kilkenny, the Coolderry/Moneygall area from Tipperary North to Laois-Offaly, the Coole/Castlepollard area from Meath West to Longford-Westmeath and the Laytown area from Louth to Meath East.

Leinster (Rest of)
Wexford 5 -1.1
Wicklow 5 -7.1
Carlow and Kilkenny 5 2.1
Laois and Offaly 5 7.1
Kildare North 4 1.9
Kildare South 3 2.5
Longford and Westmeath 4 6.4
Meath East 3
Meath West 3 4.4 avge
Louth 4 4.5

Dublin: The growth of the Dublin commuter belt has been one of the main spurs driving population growth in recent decades, but ironically Dublin’s own share of the state population has declined somewhat, a fact that is evidenced by the likely loss of Dail seats in this area. Significant boundaries redrawals are necessary with seat losses likely to affect the northern inner suburban constituencies (Dublin North West, Dublin North Central and Dublin North East), southern inner suburban constituencies (Dublin South Central and Dublin South East) and the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown county area. Although this is not a stipulation in the terms of reference set for the committee, I would argue that the local authority area boundaries would offer a useful framework to draw these new/amended boundaries around. On the northside of the city, current population levels means that there is no need to change the Dublin Central, Dublin North or Dublin West boundaries. But I would argue that, if it is decide to reduce the number of Dublin North City constituencies by one, there would be merit in transferring areas into Dublin North those areas in Fingal county (e.g. Howth, Portmarnock, Balgriffin) that are currently in Dublin North East, involving a territory/population transfer equivalent to 29,950 people, allowing Dublin North to become a 5-seater. A further territory transfer (involving a population of c.7,500 from Dublin North East to Dublin North West would balance the population of the latter constituency. The remaining territory left in Dublin North East could then be amalgamated with Dublin North Central to form a 4-seat constituency.

South of the Liffey, the part of South Dublin county currently in Dublin South Central (equivalent to 9,612 population) could be moved into Dublin South West, as could the Rathfarnham electoral area (equivalent to 39.213 population) from Dublin South. This would allow the enlarged Dublin South West become a five-seat constituency, even with a transfer of territory out of the western part of the constituency (equivalent to c. 6,000 population) to balance the Dublin Mid West population. The loss of the Rathfarnham electoral area would see the loss of a seat by Dublin South, which would also need the transfer in of territory (equivalent to c. 15,000 population) to have sufficient population to form a four seat constituency. This territory could come from Dun Laoghaire, which then would lose a seat to form a three seat constituency. (If part of the Rathfarnham electoral area (say an area equivalent to c.10,000 population) was moved into Dublin South West, instead of the entire electoral area, then the current status quo with a 4-seat Dublin South West and a 5-seat Dublin South could be maintained. Alternately the Commission may also opt to transfer sufficient population instead from Dublin South to Dun Laoghaire which would result in both constituencies becoming 4-seaters.)

The loss of territory to Dublin South West, combined with a low population per TD ratio, would ensure the loss of a seat by Dublin South Central and it would require territory from Dublin South East to have a sufficiently large enough population to form a four seat constituency. Transferring the Wood Quay A, Royal Exchange A and Royal Exchange B electoral divisions (equivalent to 8,807 population) from Dublin South East to Dublin South Central would in turn lead to the loss of a seat by Dublin South East.

Dublin North 5 -1.9
Dublin West 4 -0.3
Dublin South West 5 1.1
Dublin Mid West 4 -0.9
Dun Laoghaire 3 2.0
Dublin South 4 -0.3
Dublin South East 3 7.1
Dublin South Central 4 7.2
Dublin Central 4 -3.8
Dublin North West 3 -2.2
Dublin North Central (or East) 4 0.4

The knock on effect of these changes would be to significantly reduce the number of Dail constituencies (from 43 to 38), as would be expected given the reduction in seat numbers. My approach would significantly reduce the number of 3-seat constituencies (the number of which have been increasing in a disproportionate manner in the most recent boundary revisions) but this would lead to a significant increase in the number of the next smallest constituency size, four seaters. The average size of constituencies would be larger than those associated with all other boundary revisions since World War II but would not be significantly larger than those associated with the boundary revisions of the 1980s and early 1990s.

Revision 3 seats 4 seats 5 seats Constits. TDs Avge
1947 22 9 9 40 147 3.7
1961 17 12 9 38 144 3.8
1969 26 14 2 42 144 3.4
1974 26 10 6 42 148 3.5
1980 13 13 15 41 166 4.0
1983 13 13 15 41 166 4.0
1990 12 15 14 41 166 4.0
1995 12 15 14 41 166 4.0
1998 16 12 14 42 166 4.0
2005 18 13 12 43 166 3.9
2007 17 15 11 43 166 3.9
2012AK 8 18 12 38 156 4.1

Source: page 82 of the 2007 Constituency Commission report


About Adrian Kavanagh

Lecturer at the Maynooth University Department of Geography. Email: adrian.p.kavanagh@mu.ie
This entry was posted in Constituency Commission, Constituency information, Election boundaries and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Electoral boundary proposals for a 156-seat Dail

  1. While I can see the desire to have 4 or 5 seat constituencies in the Cork area, it creates one significant problem.

    There are two consituecncies (Cork East and Cork South(-West)) that will combine a commuter belt area with a large rural area.

    It’s not so much of a problem with Cork-East, indeed it might be necessry unless areas around Youghal and Ballycotton are going to be grouped into Waterford.

    Cork South(-West) is a different issue. You’ll have large suburban housing estates around Rochestown, Carrigaline and Ballincollig expecting to share interests with isolated rural communities more than 100km away on the Mizen and Beara peninsulars.

    As undesirable as three seaters may be, I’d see the creation of three 3-seaters in Cork South (southside commuter belt), Cork North (pretty much the land north of the Blackwater) and Cork West (The current Cork South-West with areas around Macroom added from Cork North-West) as the lesser of two evils.

  2. Conor says:

    Could you add a totals table showing the breakdown of 3, 4 and 5 seaters and the breakdown of origin of TDs by 3, 4 and 5 seaters. Since 1981, they have usually tried to keep these on par, i.e. a third of TDs would come from 3 seaters, third from 4 seaters and third from 5 seaters.

    • Good point, just added that
      On the point about trying to keep the total number of 3, 4 and 5 seat constituencies the same, the evidence from the table shows that Constituency Commissions have actually gone the other direction and disproportionately increased the number of 3-seaters relative to 4-seaters and especially 5-seaters since the revisions of the early 1980s. So no real precedent set and there are no rules stating that numbers of 3, 4 and 5 seaters should be similar in the terms of reference anyway.

      As the most disproportional of the current options available to the Constituency Commission, my take is that there should be relatively few 3-seaters – a take that is reflected in my approach as noted above. However if Chris’s approach to the Cork County constituencies, noted in the above comment (having three 3-seaters in west and north Cork county, instead of a 4 and a 5 seater – which in fairness does make more sense than my suggestion) was taken on board, then this would leave us with 11 3-seaters, 17 4-seaters and 11 5-seaters which might be a more palatable option.

  3. John Regan says:

    Roscommon/East Mayo looks a bit odd. Why not look at Roscommon/Longford?

    • Looks “odd”??? “Odd”??? I don’t get that…
      Mayo needs to gain extra territory/lose territory, if Roscommon loses South Leitrim it needs needs to gain extra territory/lose territory, they’re both neighbouring counties and with good links between them (a Roscommon team plays in the Mayo championship, for instance). Makes more sense to ally Roscommon with Mayo rather than Longford – especially as the Longford-Roscommon constituency arrangement patently didn’t work (and was very unpopular with the constituents) when it was used in the 1997 and 2002 elections
      There is no need to interfere with the Longford-Westmeath boundaries as population of that constituency is such that it can remain as a four-seat constituency without need to change its boundaries or possibly be bringing back in the Coole-Castlepollard area – the Mayo boundaries need to be changed, Longford-Westmeath don’t…seems like an open and shut case to me.

  4. Jerome Rainsford says:

    Very good analysis nationally regarding the likely changes. I agree with you about Donegal & Cavan/Monaghan although these constituencies collectively only merit a reduction of one seat. You are also mistaken in relation to Limerick, as although I agree that there should still be 7 seats in total, it has to be 4 for the city constituency (as it is now) as the population of Limerick city is now 92,000, which is too big for a 3 seat constituency and this figure does not even include the suburbs in Co. Clare (5,700) which are currently in the Limerick City constituency. Also, Limerick county would need to take over 10,000 from the city suburbs in order to become a 4 seater, which goes against all precedents from boundary commissions (ie cutting off a large chunk of a city & placing it into a largely rural constituency) and against the historic configuration of Limerick constituencies ie. Limerick East (city & part of east county Limerick) & Limerick West.

  5. 12,000 from West Cavan is a huge transfer- population density on that side of the county is low and, just guessing here, that would involve Ballyconnell (fair enough) and maybe even territory right down as far as Belturbet being moved (basically all of the county west of the Erne). Can’t see Brendan Smith being too happy!

  6. 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

  7. 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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