Does size matter? The largest/smallest (re: area) local and European election constituencies

Adrian Kavanagh, 19th May 2014

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The creation of new constituencies for the upcoming local and European elections (on May 23rd 2014) has resulted in the creation of some very large constituencies (in terms of territory/geographical area). In many cases, larger constituency units have come about as a result of a loss of seats – whether it be the loss of a European Parliament seat by the Republic of Ireland or the loss of County Council seats by some (of the more rural) counties – added to the overall increase in seat numbers for City and County Council elections. Not surprisingly, the very largest constituency areas tend to be associated with electoral areas in the more rural and western parts of the state, in addition to the two, more rural, European election constituencies. These new, larger, constituencies pose major challenges to politicians/candidates in terms of their campaigning strategies but also in terms of how they serve these very large areas should they prove to be successful come polling day. This analysis attempts to list the very largest and very smallest constituency units across the state both for local election and European election contests. In order to do so, area statistics provided by the Central Statistics Office for the 3,000+ electoral divisions in the state were accessed and area figures/statistics for each of the different electoral divisions located within the different local and European election constituencies were aggregated together to calculate the area of these electoral areas.

In cases where an electoral division fell within two different local election constituencies and in the absence of further information, a rough estimate/judgement call had to be made as to which proportion of that electoral division’s territory/area was located within these different constituencies. Cases such as these are highlighted by a *, indicating cases where some degree of estimation had to be engaged in and where the area statistics being provided here are not 100% definitive.

In terms of the European Election constituencies, there is a notable difference between the amount of territory covered by the very smallest constituency, Dublin, and the other two, more rural constituencies, in terms of population but especially in terms of geographical area/territory. The Midlands, North and West constituency covers 53.1% of the state territory, with this constituency covering territory with an area of 37,286.6 km2  . To put this into context, the constituency area is larger than the territories covered by five European Union states, namely Belgium, Slovenia, Cyprus, Luxembourg and Malta. The Dublin constituency could fit forty times within the Midlands, North and West constituency territory. The South constituency, with an area of 31,975.0 km2 , is not as large as the Midlands, North and West constituency but it too encompasses a territory that is larger than the territories covered by any of the aforementioned five smaller European Union countries. The Dublin constituency could fit forty times within the South constituency territory. The South constituency covers 45.6% of the state territory, while the area covered by the Dublin constituency (920.7 km2 ) just accounts for 1.3% of the state territory.

The largest local election constituency is South and West Kerry; the territory of which which covers an area of 2,514.8 km2. The area covered by this constituency is larger than that covered by number of the smaller European states/principalities, including Andorra, Malta and Liechenstein, and is almost as large as that covered by the state of Luxembourg. Three other electoral areas cover territories with areas of larger than two thousand square kilometres, as can be seen from the list below, with these being the West Mayo, West Cork and Conamara electoral areas. The area covered by each of these four largest local election constituencies is more than twice that of the area covered by the Dublin local election constituency. In all, twenty electoral areas cover territories with areas of greater than one thousand square kilometres, with the constituencies listed below being joined in this group by Donegal, Fermoy, Castlebar, Cappamore-Kilmallock and Boyle. (The Birr electoral area – the largest constituency in Leinster – just falls short of this with an area of 998.9 km2.)

The fifteen largest local election constituencies in the state, based on my analysis, are:

  1. South and West Kerry 2,514.8 km2
  2. West Mayo 2,246.2 km2
  3. West Cork 2,195.0 km2
  4. Conamara 2,058.9 km2
  5. West Clare 1,771.9 km2
  6. Kanturk-Mallow 1,470.8 km2  
  7. Ballymote-Tubbercurry 1,396.4 km2  
  8. Loughrea 1,383.8 km2  
  9. Glenties 1,309.8 km2  
  10. Tuam 1,279.9 km2  
  11. Nenagh 1,234 km2  
  12. Ballina 1,213.6 km2  
  13. Killaloe 1,205.4 km2  
  14. Blarney-Macroom 1,104.8 km2
  15. Claremorris 1,091.0 km2  

In terms of the ratio between a constituency’s territory/area and the number of seats being assigned to it. West Mayo emerges as having the highest level in the state with an average of 320.89 kmterritory per council seat in that seven-seat local election constituency. The nine-seat South and West Kerry, with an average of 279.42 kmterritory per council seat, and the eight-seat West Cork, with an average of 274.37 kmterritory per council seat, have the next highest levels.

The smallest local election constituency is Cork City North West, being only slightly smaller (in area terms) than the Cork City South Central local election constituency (although this is a five-seat constituency, whereas Cork City North West, as a four seat constituency, has a smaller number of seats). Cork City accounts for most of the smallest local election constituencies, with a number of electoral areas within the Dublin City, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown and Galway City local authority areas also figuring on this list. In all electoral areas located within Dublin and the other Cities account for the thirty two smallest local election constituencies. Although not included in the list below, the Celbridge-Leixlip electoral area is the smallest constituency outside of Dublin and the other Cities, while the Longford electoral area would be the smallest (in area terms) of the more rural electoral areas.

The fifteen smallest local election constituencies, based on my analysis, are:

  1. Cork City North West 4.3 km2
  2. Cork City South Central 4.4 km2
  3. Cork City North Central 5.3 km2
  4. Cork City North East 5.5 km2
  5. Crumlin-Kimmage 7.3 km2
  6. Blackrock* 8.5 km2  
  7. Cork City South West 8.6 km2  
  8. Rathgar-Rathmines 8.8 km2  
  9. North Inner City 9.4 km2  
  10. Stillorgan 10.2 km2  
  11. Dundrum* 10.6 km2  
  12. Cork City South East 11.6 km2  
  13. Galway City West 11.9 km2  
  14. Dún Laoghaire* 12.2 km2  
  15. Ballyfermot-Drimnagh 12.7 km2   

In terms of the ratio between a constituency’s territory/area and the number of seats being assigned to it. Cork City South Central emerges as having the highest level in the state with an average of 0.89 km2 territory per council seat in that five-seat local election constituency. The five-seat Cork City South Central, with an average of 1.06 km2 territory per council seat, and the four-seat Cork City North West, with an average of 1.07 km2 territory per council seat, have the next lowest levels.

The Crumlin-Kimmage electoral area has the highest population density out of all of the 137 electoral areas in the state, with a population density of 7,147.9 people per km2. The electoral areas with the next highest population density levels are North Inner City (7,130.2 people per km2), Rathgar-Rathmines (5,417.4 people per km2), Pembroke-South Dock (4,865.9 people per km2) and Cork City South Central (4,658.6 people per km2).

The West Mayo electoral area has the lowest population density out of all of the 137 electoral areas in the state, with a population density of 13.9 people per km2. The electoral areas with the next lowest population density levels are Manorhamilton (14.4 people per km2), South and West Kerry (15.5 people per km2), Ballinamore (18.1 people per km2) and Killaloe (19.0 people per km2).

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About Adrian Kavanagh

Lecturer in Maynooth University Department of Geography.
This entry was posted in Constituency information, Election boundaries, European Elections, Local Elections 2014 and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Does size matter? The largest/smallest (re: area) local and European election constituencies

  1. Michael Commins says:

    Brilliant stuff, Adrian ….sure what else could I expect from a man who is an officer with the great Hurling Club of Colt in Co Laois….!!!! This comes from the President ….!!! Regards to all the Kavanagh family. – Michael Commins, Claremorris.

    • Thanks Michael and commiserations on losing out to South and West Kerry in the contest for the largest local election constituency. I guess, they “wanted it more”…

  2. Kevin Lamoreau says:

    “The Midlands, North and West constituency covers 53.1% of the state territory, with this constituency covering territory with an area of 37,286.6 km2 …. The South constituency, with an area of 31,975.0 km2 , … covers 45.6% of the state territory,”

    Do you know what those figures would be had Counties Laois, Offaly and Kildare and one of MN&W’s four seats been placed in a 5-seat South constituency. The northern constituency probably wouldn’t have had Midlands in its name in that case. It probably wouldn’t have been as close a split area-wise but it would have been a neater line across Leinster.

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