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.
|Cork County North||5|
|Cork County South (or West)||5|
|Cork County East||4||-2.0 (avge)|
|Limerick County (West)||4||-4.2|
|Limerick City (East)||3||-4.9|
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.
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)|
|Carlow and Kilkenny||5||2.1|
|Laois and Offaly||5||7.1|
|Longford and Westmeath||4||6.4|
|Meath West||3||4.4 avge|
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 South West||5||1.1|
|Dublin Mid West||4||-0.9|
|Dublin South East||3||7.1|
|Dublin South Central||4||7.2|
|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|