Saturday, December 17, 2011

Review of Dail Constituencies (Part 3)

Constituency Sizes

In the previous two parts (here and here) we have established that in the current review the target number of TDs should be set to 160. However, the Commission is free to create 52 three seat constituencies or 32 five seaters or any combination between those extremes. It is my strong personal belief that larger constituencies are better in the PR-STV system as they increase the proportionality of the set of representatives elected.

In the extreme case of single seat constituencies, where PR-STV degenerates into AV, a party could win 49% of the vote in every area and still not win a single seat. This result is highly unlikely of course but the system makes it possible. As the number of members elected by each constituency is increased the proportion of votes . Since the commission is limited to 3, 4 and 5 seat constituencies, I will try to maximize the number of larger constituencies and only use 3 seaters where absolutely necessary to try and fulfill the other requirements placed on the Commission by the legislation.

Division by Region

Taking the 2011 census figures region by region we see that the number of TDs per region should be as follows:

This table starkly shows the growth in population in the Dublin commuter belt compared to the rest of the country. Despite losing 6 TDs from the Dáil, this region actually gains representation. It also shows how few TDs should be assigned to the vast area of Connacht/Ulster, reflecting the relatively low population density in the North and West of the country. Finally, we can see that after the re-drawing, Dublin will still remain the key battleground in any General Election with the largest share of seats up for grabs in the capital.

As a child, my grandmother talked about giving homework a "quick death" by doing the simple things first. In modern management speak that'd be picking off the low hanging fruit. But that always ended up leaving me on a Sunday night with both an Irish and an English essay to write. So this time I'm taking on the toughest task first.


This is by far the trickiest region to divide into constituencies. The guideline to remain within county boundaries conflicts directly with my desire to minimize the number of 3 seat constituencies. To this struggle we add the relentless calls for the re-unification of Leitrim into a single constituency. This has been a major issue in the public consultation of both this and the 2006 constituency review. To help ease the pressure I am adding the fractional TDs from Dublin and Munster to the Connacht/Ulster. This will bring the total number to be allocated up to 30.

Galway West and Galway East both retain enough population to maintain their current representation of 5 and 4 seats respectively. To rebalance the constituencies more precisely, a total population of about 1200-1500 in one or two of the most easterly districts, Aughrim, Stradbally, Deerpark or Bellville could be moved from West to East but I deem this an unnecessary change in the overall scheme.

In a 160 seat Dáil, Mayo is entitled to 4.6 TDs and Roscommon is entitled to 2.2 TDs or a combined total of 6.8 TDs. I propose creating a 4 seat Mayo and a 3 seat Roscommon-East Mayo constituency. This involves transferring about 18k people from Swinford and Ballyhaunis to form the East Mayo section of the three seater. This leaves both constituencies slightly below the average ratio but within acceptable levels.

The Cavan-Monaghan constituency should have 4.6 TDs. I propose leaving this area with 5 deputies despite that putting them 6.8% below average representation. The alternative would involve moving sections of West Cavan into a constituency with Leitrim or acquiring sections of neighbouring counties in Leinster, neither of which is overly satisfactory.

This leaves Leitrim, Sligo and Donegal. Between them the three counties have an entitlement to exactly 9 TDs which I will divide into a 5 seater covering most of Donegal and a 4 seater covering Leitrim, Sligo and the southern part of Donegal around Bundoran and Ballyshannon.

As can be seen from the table above, six of the seven constituencies have a negative variance, indicating that they are slightly over-represented compared to the national average. However, as mentioned previously, this is expected as we have assigned an additional 0.8 TDs to the region to compensate for the large geographical area.

In the next post I will tackle some lower hanging fruit in the shape of Leinster (excluding Dublin) and Munster.

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