On Thursday, the CSO revealed Ireland’s new population of 4,757,976 and a new population per TD of 30,114 – just above the constitutional limit of 30,000. It means we need to increase the number of TDs.
There are currently 158 TDs, down from 166 in the last Dáil. This was a response to the economic crisis. Fine Gael promised a reduction at the 2011 election and implemented it in government. It did so by pushing the constitutional boundary, and now that the population has risen, we find ourselves outside it.
The Constituency Commission
On Thursday evening, Minister Simon Coveney established a Constituency Commission to examine the new population data, determine the optimal number of TDs and re-draw boundaries to effect this change. The Commission is chaired by a Judge and has four other members. It will take submissions from the public over the coming months and report its findings. The Dáil must then enact the new boundaries.
The terms of reference of the Commission are worth noting:
- It can only set a number of TDs between 153 and 160. Since 158 is in breach of the constitutional limits, a Dáil of 159 or 160 seats must be chosen. I assume 160. An even number is often chosen to avoid use of the Ceann Comhairle’s casting vote.
- It is asked not to breach county boundaries when re-drawing. This is never always followed.
It is also apparent that the Commission attempts to keep the variance in population per TD between +/-5%. It therefore ensures that no constituency is over/under-represented compared to the national average.
The CSO has determined the population per TD in each constituency as follows:
25 of 40 constituencies breach the constitutional 30,000 limit, however this isn’t relevant. The last Commission created a number of “breach” constituencies, but the overall national total was under 30,000.
We can see from the table that the North Dublin constituencies of Central and North West are most under-represented. It is therefore likely the Commission will recommend one extra seat in this region. It is also apparent that the Kildare-Laois region is under-represented. This is closely followed by South Dublin, and the North West border constituencies.
As mentioned, I assume the Commission goes for the maximum increase and adds two TDs. The national population per TD therefore falls to 29,737. The two regions receiving TDs in this exercise will be North Dublin and the Kildare-Laois area.
Note: In the below analysis I refer to “DEDs”. These are the smallest level region and should be thought of as the “building blocks” of constituencies. They also piece together to form LEAs which are used for local elections. It is ideal for LEA and constituency boundaries to align.
Note: The below analysis is one of countless options for boundary change. The Commission will inevitably make slightly different changes.
Note: Apologies for the large map file sizes below. If some don’t appear, just click on the thumbnail to view them.
Constituencies with no change
The following constituencies see no change.
- Dublin Fingal loses area on its southern border. Specifically:
- Balgriffin DED moves into Dublin Bay North; and
- Dubber and Airport DEDs move into Dublin North West.
- Dublin Bay North loses Drumcondra South A and Clontarf West E to Dublin North West.
- Dublin West loses Phoenix Park and Ashtown B to Dublin Central.
- Dublin Central loses Cabra East A, Cabra West A, Cabra West B and Drumcondra South B to Dublin North West.
- Dublin North West becomes a 4-seat constituency, having gained the above-mentioned DEDs.
This is one available option for North Dublin. One less DED can move from Central to North West while maintaining fair representation. Alternatively, Dublin Central could receive extra land and gain a seat instead of North West. A more radical solution would give four seats each to Central, North West and Bay North.
This is a re-balancing to avoid under-representation in Dublin Rathdown:
- Stillorgan-Leopardstown and Foxrock-Torquay move from DL to DR; and
- Clonskeagh-Belfield and Stillorgan-Mount Merrion move from DR to DL.
A swap can also be done with Dublin South West although it is preferable not to breach the DLR county boundary. DL and DR were encompassed within this boundary at the last boundary review. There are other ways to re-balance between DL and DR however this appears to be the optimal solution.
- Tipperary: The following DEDs move out of Tipperary to allow for the Kildare-Laois changes:
- Bourney West; and
- Bourney East.
- Laois-Offaly: This is a new 5-seat constituency. A constituency of the same name existed prior to the 2012. Its boundary includes:
- The above mentioned DEDs from Tipperary;
- The existing Offaly constituency;
- County Laois (ex-Portlaoise and areas to its east, south of Emo).
- Kildare Laois: This is a new 4-seat constituency. It is an extension of the existing 3-seat Kildare South. Its boundary includes:
- County Laois (those areas not included in Laois-Offaly above);
- County Kildare – Athy LEA; and
- County Kildare – Kildare-Newbridge LEA (excluding the DEDs of Rathangan, Killinthomas, Lullymore, Cloncurry, Kilmeage North, Kilmeage South and Robertstown)
- Kildare North: Now 5-seats, encompassing those parts of County Kildare not in Kildare-Laois.
The extra seat here pushes some constituencies towards over-representation. While this is regrettable, further constituencies would need to be involved to rectify this, leading to the breach of county lines in either Kilkenny, Wicklow, Meath or Westmeath. Alternatively, the Commission may opt to keep Offally as is, and just modify boundaries between Tipperary, Laois and Kildare.
I move the Ballybricken DED from City to County. Without this change, Limerick County is over-represented.
- DEDs south of Ballinasloe (all within the Ballinasloe LEA) move from Galway East to Roscommon-Galway. Alternatively, more northerly DEDs could move.
- DEDs east of Oranmore and Claregalway move from Galway West to Galway East. Alternatively, DEDs near the Mayo border could move.
- DEDs south of (and including) Gort move from Galway East to Clare. Alternatively, DEDs nearer to Portumna could move.
Cork area (optional)
Cork East and Cork South Central require no adjustment.
The remaining Cork constituencies also require no adjustment, however North-Central and South-West are nearly at the 5% over/under-representation limit. It is prudent to rectify this:
- Teadies, Templemartin, Brinny, Ballymurphy and Knockavilly DEDs move from North-West to South-West.
- Gowlane, Dripsey, Firmount and Matehy DEDs move from North-Central to North-West.
There are countless other DEDs which could also move to balance populations.
Cavan is currently divided between the 4-seat constituencies of Sligo-Leitrim and Cavan-Monaghan. Without adjustment, Cavan-Monaghan is nearly at the 5% limit for under-representation (4.5%). DEDs surrounding and including Berturbet are moved into Sligo-Leitrim.
As mentioned, the above is one set of possible moves to achieve a balanced 160-seat Dáil. There are many others. The Commission will ultimately decide.
It is surprising to see the upper-limit for this review set at 160. It would be more prudent to:
- Raise the number of TDs to 170/180; or
- Run a referendum to change the 30,000 limit.
Both changes would “future-proof” the Dáil. Instead we’re moving from review-to-review with the bare minimum of changes made, just to keep things constitutional. We can do better than that.