Sunday, December 18, 2011

Review of Dail Constituencies (Part 4)

Leinster (excluding Dublin)

Compared to the shenanigans required to get Connacht/Ulster to work, Leinster outside of Dublin turns out to be fairly straightforward. The table here shows the number of TDs per county based on a 160 TD Dáil with a total of 43 to be distributed across the region.

The southern counties arrange themselves neatly into three 5 seaters. Wexford is pretty much spot on for 5 seats, Carlow and Kilkenny combined are slightly over the required population for 5 but not by much, and Wicklow on its own is slightly below, but again not by much. In the current constituencies the north-eastern DEDs in Carlow are transferred across to Wicklow to balance up the populations more exactly. This is easy to do but I believe that the desire to avoid breaches in the county boundaries is stronger than tweaking the population to reduce variances.

Since the foundation of the state the constituency of Laois-Offaly has existed, initially as a 4 seater but for most of its history as a 5 seater. However, due to substantial population growth, the area is now entitled to 5.5 TDs in a 160 seat Dáil and so some territory needs to be shed. In the previous arrangement the most southerly DEDs in Offaly were transferred to Tipperary North. However, I want to keep the provincial borders intact and so propose removing a total of 7 DEDs from Portarlington to Edenderry from Laois-Offaly and adding them to Kildare. With these additions, Kildare's total representation increased to 8 in total. By moving the Robertstown and Downings DEDs from the existing Kildare North into Kildare South and adding the DEDs from Laois-Offaly to Kildare South as well we end up with three well balanced constituencies.
In the last boundary review, two DEDs around Drogheda were added to Louth as it was determined that they had more in common with the town than with the rest of Meath. If these remain in the Louth constituency then no changes need to be made to allow the constituency retain 5 TDs. This population transfer is not sufficient however to create a 5 seater of the remainder of Meath. I propose transferring the western DEDs of the county from Oldcastle, through Athboy and down to beside Kinnegad across to an expanded Longford-Westmeath constituency. This then forms three 5-seaters covering the northern end of the province.

This map shows my division of the non-Dublin section of Leinster, comprising of seven 5-seaters and two 4-seaters. A summary of the new constituencies is contained in the table. As can be seen the maximum variance occurs in Carlow-Kilkenny and Wicklow which as mentioned previously can be remedied if required by transferring DEDs from Carlow to Wicklow.


Munster lies somewhere between Leinster and Connacht/Ulster in terms of difficulty to arrange into new constituencies for a 160 seat Dáil where the emphasis is on creating larger constituencies. Three counties, namely Clare, Kerry and Waterford are nicely populated to form constituencies in their own right with 4 seats for Clare and Waterford and 5 for Kerry. I am sure that there will be calls to retain two 3-seat constituencies in Kerry but this would only be possible with a transfer of in excess of 20k people into either or both constituencies. Instead, with just over 2k people above the average, Kerry as a whole is properly represented as a 5-seater.

Cork's population entitles it to 18 TDs in our reduced size Dáil. At present there are two 3-seaters, two 4-seaters and a 5-seater in the county so overall one TD will have to be cut. I propose a significant redrawing of the boundaries within Cork, with the aim of removing as many 3-seaters as possible. To that end, I start by creating a Cork City constituency covering the City Council area along with the northern suburban DEDs of St Mary's, Rathcooney, Riverstown and Caherlag. Next I create a Cork South constituency covering the suburbs of Douglas, Ballincollig and Carrigaline as well as the towns of Cobh, Kinsale and as far down the coast as Clonakilty. The existing Cork East is expanded to take in the more rural parts of the existing Cork North-Central. The remained of the county is merged into Cork West along with the transfer of Mallow from Cork East to Cork West.

This leaves Limerick and Tipperary to sort. Limerick is entitled to 6.6 TDs and Tipperary to 5.6 neither a particularly good number. However, were we to transfer approximately 10k from Tipperary into Limerick then we could make a 5-seater for Tipperary, and split Limerick into a 3-seater for the city area and a 4-seater for the country. The areas I have chosen to move are those around Birdhill and Ballina which have essentially become commuter towns for Limerick city.

The table shows the population and variance for each constituency in Munster. As can be seen we have minimized the number of small constituencies, remained within county boundaries except in one situtation and have kept the variance in population within acceptable bounds. Further minor tweaks could be made to the boundaries to further minimize the variance within Cork and between the two Limerick constituencies.

In the final part of this series I will tackle Dublin and then make some overall conclusions about my choices across the country.

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