Shape of new general election boundaries if the Constituency Commission opt for a 158-seat Dail (updated based on definitive Census 2011 figures)

Adrian Kavanagh, 29th March 2012

A new Constituency Commission report on election boundaries (for general and European elections) is likely to be published in the coming weeks after the final/definitive population statistics for Census 2011 were published today.  This posts follows on the previous posts in this series which updates the analysis carried out previously for 154-Dail seat and 160-Dail seat scenarios to consider what options the Constituency Commission might face if they decide to opt for a 158-seat Dail Eireann.

Carlow-Kilkenny – Carlow-Kilkenny’s population is fine for this constituency under to remain as a 5-seater (with a population per TD ratio that is just 0.3% higher than the state average) with its present electoral boundaries, but the population is not too large to prevent the return of the Hacketstown area and allow for a five seat constituency comprising of the total area of both counties (which would have a population per TD ratio that would be 3.3% higher than the state average). Ultimately the decision on whether Hacketstown returns to Carlow-Kilkenny or not would be largely shaped by what happens with Wicklow rather than the population levels in Carlow and Kilkenny.

Cavan-Monaghan – With a population per TD ratio that is 7.94% lower than the state average, the Constituency Commission would have to make changes to the constituency boundaries in a 158-seat scenario. The Commission could seek territory from a neighbouring constituency to bring the population back to the level necessary to sustain a 5-seat constituency. Alternately, if they are looking for extra territory to bolster a four-seat Leitrim and Sligo constituency they may well look for this in west Cavan, resulting in a smaller 4-seat Cavan-Monaghan constituency.

Clare – The population per TD ratio for this as a 4-seat constituency falls within the 5% variance limits (4.2% below the state average) if the current election boundary (excluding Ballyglass ED) is retained, or just above the state average (0.9%) if the Commission decides to base the constituency boundary on the county boundaries of Clare – so either option would be acceptable. (With the return of the West Limerick area from Kerry North, the Clare territory within the Limerick City constituency would not be required to maintain a 4-seat and 3-seat boundary configuration within Limerick if the Commission were prepared to accept a variance level of between 5% and 6% for these two constituencies.)

The Cork constituencies – with a population equivalent to 17.9 TDs based on the 2011 figures, it looks likely as if one one of the Cork constituencies will be losing a seat with Cork South Central and Cork North-Central appearing to be the most vulnerable.

Cork East – with population per TD average just below (1.5%) the state average, there is no need to change the boundaries of this constituency and no boundary changes will be required unless these are dictated by the Commission deciding to make more radical changes involving all the Cork election boundaries

Cork North Central – As a 4-seat constituency, Cork North-Central falls well below 5% variance limit in terms of its population per TD ratio (9.7% below the state average), but Cork North-Central could maintain its four seats with territory transfers from neighbouring Cork North-West and/or Cork South-Central.

Cork North West – As a 3-seat constituency, Cork North-West falls outside the 5% variance limit in terms of its population per TD ratio (6.4% below the state average), but Cork North-West could maintain its three seats with territory transfers from one or more of its neighbouring Cork constituencies. The Commission would also have the option of retaining the constitiuency boundaries as they are as the level of variance does not exceed the absolute maximum degree of variance (-7.89%) permitted in previous boundary revisions, but decisions to be taken in relation to other neighbouring constituencies will have a significant bearing here.

Cork South Central – as a 5-seat constituency, Cork South-Central falls outside the 5% variance limit in terms of its population per TD ratio (6.8% below the state average), but Cork South-Central could maintain its five seats with territory transfers from one or more of its neighbouring Cork constituencies. The Commission would also have the option of retaining the constitiuency boundaries as they are as the level of variance does not exceed the absolute maximum degree of variance (-7.89%) permitted in previous boundary revisions, but decisions to be taken in relation to other neighbouring constituencies will have a significant bearing here.

Cork South West – There is no need to change the Cork South-West constituency boundaries on the basis of population levels for it to remain a 3-seater ; while the population per TD ratio for the constituency is lower than the state average, it falls just within the 5% variance limits (4.8% below state average). The Commission is hence not required to make changes to the Cork South-West constituency boundaries unless chages are required due to changes involving neighbouring Cork constituencies.

Commentary on Cork region – the census figures would suggest that Cork’s population would be equivalent to 17.9 TDs suggesting one of the constituencies (South Central or North Central) would probably lose a seat. A more radical option might involve the (re)creation of a 5-seat (or 4-seat) Cork City constituency and creation of one/two 5-seat and one/two 4-seat constituencies in the Cork County area, allowing for the number of Cork constituencies to be reduced by one.

Donegal North East and Donegal South West – while the population of the Donegal South West constituency would be too small to allow this remain as a 3-seater with its present boundaries (with a population per TD ratio 10.1% below the state average), the Donegal North East population per TD ratio would be within 5% variance limit (4.9% below the state average) and so could remain as is. Territory transfers from North East to South West could help maintain both these as 3-seaters, but the Commission would have to tolerate significant breaches of the 5% variance limit in both of these cases (with degrees of variance moving close to the maximum 7.89% limit).  In the 158-seat scenario, the more likely options might be (i) to create a 5-seat seat Donegal constituency, while transferring out an area equivalent to c. 9,000 population to balance the population per TD ratio, (ii) to bolster the population of Donegal South-West with a territory transfer (equivalent to a population of c. 5,000 population) in from a neighbouring constituency.

The Dublin region – there are are currently 47 Dail seats across shared out across the twelve Dublin constituencies but the population of the Dublin region would be equivalent to just 43.8 seats based on current population figures and a 158-seat configuration. This means that the Dublin constituencies between them are likely to lose three seats in these changes.

Dublin Central – With a population per TD ratio that is just 2.0% below the state average, Dublin Central can stay as a 4-seater with its current boundaries unless changes to neighbouring constituencies have a bearing here.

Dublin Mid West – With a population per TD ratio that is 4.9% below the state average, Dublin Mid-West can remain as a 4-seat constituency with its current constituency boundaries unless changes to neighbouring constituencies, such as Dublin South-West have a knock-on effect here.

Dublin North – With a population per TD ratio that is 1.6% below the state average, Dublin North can remain as a 4-seat constituency with its current boundaries unless changes to neighbouring constituencies have a bearing here, or unless the Commission decide to make a conscious effort to politically reunite Swords Town.

Dublin North Central, Dublin North-West and Dublin North-East – with the combined population of these constituencies equivalent to 8.1 Dail seats based on the provisional 2011 census figures, the three 3-seat constituency configuration involving these North City constituencies is no longer feasible (and would only be possible with a very large, and rather unsustainable, territory transfer from the neighbouring constituencies of Dublin Central, Dublin North and Dublin Wes effectively creating a Frankenstein constituency context). The most likely solution would be to replace these constituencies with two North City 4-seat constituencies (0r a 3-seater/4-seater configuration if the areas located within Fingal County (Howth/Portmarnock/Balgriffin area) was to be moved to Dublin North – probably making this a 5-seat constituency)

Dublin South – With a population per TD ratio that is 3.2% below the state average, Dublin South can stay as a 5-seat constituency with its current boundaries unless changes to neighbouring constituencies of Dublin South-East, Dublin South-Central, Dublin South-West and Dun Laoghaire are to have a bearing here, as is quite likely.

Dublin South Central – With a population per TD average (12.4% below the state average) that is too small to remain a 5-seater with its current boundaries, Dublin South-Central appears likely to lose a seat and territory (possibly in order to help retain four seats in Dublin South-East), unless constituency receives a significant territory transfer (equivalent to a population of c. 12,000) from a neighbouring constituency (possibly the South East Inner City area from Dublin South East) to help it retain its five seats.

Dublin South East – With a population per TD average (10.6% below the state average) that is too small to remain a 4-seater with current boundaries, Dublin South-East will require extra territory from a neighbouring constituency to retain its four seats or else may lose some of its current constituency territory and become a three-seat constituency. The most likely solutions will involve a territory transfer (the South West Inner City or Terenure area) from Dublin South Central or a territory transfer to Dublin South Central (as noted above), which would either leave two 4-seaters, or a 3-seater and a 5-seater, in the Dublin South City area.

Dublin South West – With a population per TD ratio that is 9.1% below the state average (and hence falling well outside the 5% variance limit), the population of this constituency is too small for it to remain as a 4-seat constituency with its current boundaries. The constituency needs a territory transfer of c. 5,000 to retain its four seats but – given that the neighbouring Dublin Mid-West and Dublin South-Central constituencies are lacking surplus populations to transfer to Dublin South-West – the only likely source of this new territory would be Dublin South (unless the South Dublin County electoral divisions currently located in Dublin South Central were to be transferred into the constituency within a context where Dublin South Central loses a seat). A more radical approach might involve the transferring of the South Dublin County electoral divisions currently located within Dublin South-Central and Dublin South (equivalent to the Rathfarnham electoral area) into Dublin South-West, which – with a minor territory transfer involving the western part of this constituency and Dublin Mid West – could allow for the creation of a 4-seat Dublin Mid-West and 5-seat Dublin South-West.

Dublin West – With a population per TD ratio that is just 0.9% above the state average, Dublin West can remain as a 4-seat constituency without requiring changes to its current boundaries unless changes to neighbouring constituencies are to have a bearing here or unless the Commission decides to take account of the 268 submissions call for the political reunification of Swords. The most feasible option for the reunification of the Swords Town area, given that the return of the Swords-Forrest electoral division would leave Dublin West with much too small a population for it to remain a four-seat constituency, could well be to move the rest of Swords (an area with a population level almost equivalent to one Dail seat) into Dublin West to make it a 5-seater (with the loss of population to Dublin North potentially being balanced by moving Howth, Portmarnock and Baldoyle into this constituency from Dublin North-East).

Dun Laoghaire – Dun Laoghaire is too small to stay as a 4-seater with its current boundaries, as its population per TD ratio is 9.6% lower than the state average. This disparity could be solved by small territory transfer equivalent to a population of c. 6,000 into the constituency from Dublin South East or Dublin South. Alternatively Dun Laoghaire could lose a seat if territory equivalent to c. 15,000 population was to be moved out of the constituency into one of its neighbouring constituencies.

Commentary: Dublin region set to lose three Dail seats, with losses focused on the inner suburbs (North City and South City areas) and the constituencies located to the south of the Liffey.

Galway East and Galway West – with the population per TD ratios at 5.2% below the state average in Galway East and 3.2% below the state average in Galway West, slight changes will need to be made to the boundaries of Galway East to bring this constituency’s population per TD ratio within the 5% variance limit but this territory can be provided from neighbouring Galway West without the need to breach county boundaries. The combined population of these two constituencies is equivalent to 8.6 Dail seats with a 158-seat context and hence is still closer (albeit only slightly) to that for having 9 Dail seats, as opposed to 8, for the Galway area.

Both Kerry North-West Limerick and Kerry South are too small to remain as 3-seaters under their current boundary configurations with the population per TD ratio 7.2% below the state average in Kerry North-West Limerick and 10.5% below the state average in Kerry South. Moving the West Limerick area back with the other Limerick constituencies would leave the Kerry county area with a population level sufficient for this to become a standalone 5-seat constituency with a population per TD ratio just 0.2% higher than the state average.

The population of Kildare county is sufficient to retain  4-seat Kildare North (population per TD ratio 3.3% higher than the state average) and a 3-seat Kildare South (population per TD ratio 3.6% higher than the state average) constituency and the boundaries of both constituencies will probably remain as they are (unless the Commission decides to reunite Naas with its rural hinterland). Had the decision not been made to reduce the number of Dail seats, Kildare would have been likely to have received an added Dail seat in this revision.

Laois-Offaly – This constituency would have been likely to have been divided into two three-seat constituencies had the Commission been working on the basis of 166 seats again. With the population per TD ratio (5.3% above the state average) falling just outside the 5% variance limit in a 158-seat context, a further territory transfer out of this constituency (involving areas in south Offaly and Tipperary North) may be required though the Commission would have the option to leave the boundaries as they are at present given how close the degree of variance is to the 5% limit. The return of the south Offaly area to the Laois-Offaly constituency is not possible with a 158-seat configuration as the population per TD ratio for a two-county Laois-Offaly constituency would be 8.3% above the state average.

The population of the Limerick City constituency is too small to remain as a 4-seater (with a population per TD ratio 11.6% below the state average), while the population per TD ratio in Limerick  (6.2% below the state average) also sees this fall outside the 5% variance limit. Moving the western part of the county that is currently in the Kerry North-West Limerick constituency would ensure the two Limerick constituencies have a sufficient combined population to prevent the loss of a seat if the Ballyglass ED (part of Co. Clare) was to remain within the Limerick City constituency or if the Commission were prepared to accept a level of variance that falls outside the 5% variance limits.

Longford-Westmeath – The current population levels in Longford-Westmeath are fine for this constituency to remain as a 4-seat constituency (with a population per TD ratio 0.6% higher than the state average), but the return of the Castlepollard area to join with the rest of Westmeath county in this constituency would probably not be feasible as this would leave the constituency with a population per TD ratio that would be 7.75% higher than the state average (close to the 7.89% maximum degree of variance permitted by past Commission reports).

Louth – The Louth constituency can remain as 5-seater with present boundaries as its population per TD ratio would be just 1.3% lower than the state average. If the part of east Meath that was added into Louth in the 2007 revision was to be returned to the Meath East constituency then Louth could return to being a 4-seater Louth County constituency (if the Commission was prepared to accept a +5.8% variance level for this).

Mayo – the population is too small for this to remain a 5-seater (with a population per TD ratio 10.0% lower than the state average) but too large for it to be a 4-seat constituency with its present boundaries (with a population per TD ratio 12.5% higher than the state average). A small territory transfer equivalent to a population of c. 8,000 people from a neighbouring constituency (from Roscommon or Sligo) could help maintain Mayo as a 5-seat constituency – alternately a territory transfer equivalent to a population of 8,000-9,000 people (in eastern Mayo) into a neighbouring constituency could see Mayo become a four-seat constituency.

The Meath county population is more than sufficient (although probably slightly too large with a population per TD ratio 5.7% higher than the state average) to have one 6-seat constituency (if that was to be allowed by the Electoral Act)/or rather two 3-seat Meath West and Meath East constituencies with their territory being entirely from the county area without need for added territory from other counties, such as Westmeath. But if Castlepollard area cannot be returned to Longford-Westmeath and the Commission decides to keep Louth as a 5-seat constituency, then the current status quo involving these constituencies could be maintained without need for any boundary changes, as the population per TD ratios in these two constituencies lie very close to the state average (1.8% below in Meath West, 0.6% below in Meath East).

Roscommon-South Leitrim and Sligo-North Leitrim are both too small to remain as three seaters based on how their population per TD rations sit relative to the 5% variance limit. However the degree of variance involving both of these constituencies – with population per TD rations of 7.1% below the state average in Roscommon-South Leitrim and 7.85% below the state average in Sligo-North Leitrim –  has been allowed by past Commissions, so the Commission could well just opt to retain the current boundary configurations. The population associated with the area covered by these two constituencies would be too large for these to be amalgamated into a 5-seater (population per TD ratio 11.1% higher than the state average), however a territory transfer involving either north-western Roscommon or western Sligo (c. 8,000 population) being moved into Mayo could allow creation of a 5-seat constituency. Alternately, the option of a 3-seat Roscommon-East Mayo and 4-seat Leitrim-Sligo constituency could be feasible with territory transfers from the neighbouring Mayo, Donegal South-West and Cavan-Monaghan constituencies.

In relation to the Tipperary constituencies, the population of Tipperary South is too small for it to remain as a 3-seater with its current electoral boundaries  (population per TD ratio 8.5% lower than the state average), but the population per TD ratio for Tipperary North lies relatively close to the state average (2.4% below this). The creation of a 5-seater Tipperary county constituency is not feasible in a 158-seat scenario, as the population per TD ratio for such an entity would be 9.3% higher than the state average. A territory transfer (equivalent to a population of c. 3,000) from Tipperary North to Tipperary South would appear the likely option here with the possibility that the loss of territory by Tipperary North could well be offset by Tipperary North gaining some more territory from Laois-Offaly or else that the Commission would be prepared to accept a variance level of c. -6% for both of the Tipperary constituencies.

Waterford – the population of the constituency area is sufficient for this to remain as a 4-seater without need to change its current boundaries (with a population per TD ratio 3.4% below the state average) and there is scope to allow the constituency reclaim the part of the county that currently lies within the Tipperary South constituency (a Waterford county four-seat constituency would have a population per TD ratio that would be 2.0% below the state average), but this territory would appear to be needed to bolster the Tipperary South population to the level required of a three-seat constituency.

Wexford – With a population per TD ratio that is just 0.1% above the state average, Wexford can stay as a 5-seat constituency with its current boundaries unless changes to neighbouring constituencies have a bearing here, which would appear to be unlikely in this case.

Wicklow – With a population per TD ratio that is 2.9% below the state average, Wicklow  can remain as a 5-seat constituency with its current boundaries unless changes to neighbouring constituencies have a bearing here. One such change may well involve Carlow-Kilkenny, especially given that in a 158-seat constituency scenario Wicklow would not need Hacketstown area to maintain a sufficient level of population for it to remain as a 5-seater if the Commission were prepared to accept a variance level of -5.9% for a Wicklow county 5-seat constituency to repair the breach of county boundaries affecting Carlow and Wicklow.

Finally, the potential changes to constitiuency boundaries outlined here are specific to a 158-seat context – if the Commission opt for a different number of Dail seats then some of the options outlined here would not be feasible.

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About Adrian Kavanagh

Lecturer in Maynooth University Department of Geography.
This entry was posted in Census2011 definitive figures, Constituency Commission, Constituency information, Election boundaries and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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