Following on from the review of Dáil boundaries last year, a committee has been set up to redraw county and city council wards. They accepted public submissions during January and here is the one I wrote. It wasn't as detailed as I wished as I ended up rushing it in the last couple of days while travelling to and from Brussels.
With an increase in representation from 52 to 63 councillors, each councillor will now represent 8375 residents, based on the latest population figures from the CSO. Despite the improvment since the last review, this still leaves Dubliners under-represented by almost 43% compared to the rest of the country. If the figure used in other councils was applied to Dublin, there would be 109 councillors for the City. This would allow the committee to provide real local representation by creating smaller geographical wards, not sprawling semi-Dáil constituencies that it is now forced to do.
I note in the terms of reference that wards are to return between 6 and 10 members. This is a very welcome requirement. For proportionality’s sake, it is important to move away from 3 and 4 seaters. Indeed my submission to the Dáil boundary review proposed a scenario where most TDs were returned in 5 seaters.
The second important principle in drawing boundaries is to try to keep natural communities in a single ward. In the current arrangement urban villages like Terenure, Raheny and Sandymount are split across two different wards and this is less than satisfactory. However, given the often competing pressure to define clear boundaries following main roads, rivers, railways etc. it is probably not possible to adhere to this principle at all times.
The final principle is that, where possible, Council and Dáil boundaries should coincide. Again, it is not possible to satisfy this constraint at all times.
The population in the City area south of the river Liffey is approximately 220k. This suggests a representation level of 26 councillors. Looking first at the new Dublin Bay South (DBS) constituency, the population there is almost perfect for 14 councillors so I propose the creation of two wards entirely contained within that Dáil constituency, each of 7 seats. Drawing a border that follows the canal from Harold’s Cross to Leeson St and then along the N11 to the Council boundary with Dún Laoghaire, creates two wards as required. These are effectively a merge of the old Pembroke and South East Inner City wards (Pembroke) and old Rathmines merged with the areas of Terenure and Harold’s Cross that were recently moved from Dublin South Central (Rathmines).
The remainder of the south side all lies within the Dáil constituency of Dublin South Central (DSC). I have also included the part of DSC that lies north of the river along Parkgate St and Conyngham Road. This population merits 12 councillors and so I propose creating two wards of 6 seats. This division is not as simple as the one for DBS. The difficulty stems from the fact that the Merchants Quay and Ushers DEDs are far more densely populated than the outer suburban areas. I have tried various combinations of DEDs, none to any great satisfaction – one either ends up splitting the inner city or Crumlin, or else ends up with a sprawling outer ward that stretches from Chapelizod to the KCR. This boundary follows Thomas St, Marrowbone Lane, LUAS tracks, the Camac and finally Walkinstown Rd to the roundabout. The eastern part I call Crumlin and the western part Ballyfermot.
Moving across the river, there are 37 council seats to be allocated. The area is covered by 4 Dáil constituencies, Dublin Central (DC), Dublin West (DW), Dublin North West (DNW) and the new Dublin Bay North (DBN) with only DC entirely within the City Council area.
Starting with DC, the population merits a total of over 10 councillors. If one removes the Cabra DEDs, one is left with a Central ward with population requiring 8 councillors. DBN’s population entitles it to be represented by 15 councillors. Previous local divisions have split the village of Raheny, so I propose instead to divide the constituency in half using the Malahide Road, a natural boundary, with the eastern portion (Raheny) allocated 8 councillors and the western (Beaumont) awarded 7.
DNW has recently been extended to include the Botanic DEDs as well as Drumcondra South C. If these areas are excluded, the remaining territory has exactly the right population for an 8 seat (Finglas) ward. The remaining areas, namely Cabra from DC, Botanic and Drumcondra from DNW and the Ashtown & Phoenix Park areas in DW can be merged into a single 6 seater (Cabra).
The map below shows the arrangement of the wards as outlined above. The names are not to be taken as definitive in any sense. Finglas could just as easily be called Ballymun and Ballyfermot could be Inchicore. Final place names should probably be agreed by the committee in consultation with the existing public representative from the area concerned.