Thursday, June 21, 2012

Constituency Commission report

Back around the New Year, between washing bottles and changing nappies, I wrote a series of posts that formed the text of my submission to the Constituency Commission that were reviewing the boundaries of Dáil constituencies. Finally, after the Fiscal Compact referendum was dealt with, the Commission has reported. I'm not going to go over the report in exacting detail, rather I'm going to make a few general observations and then pick out a few interesting details.
Firstly, the Commission has really missed an opportunity to undertake serious reform of the electoral landscape. As my submission showed, it is possible to maximize the number of five seat constituencies without breaching the guidelines much more than the Commission have in their own report. Taking south Dublin as an example, they have butchered an existing five seater into a three seater their attempts to keep a viable Dun Laoghaire and expand Dublin South West. This missed opportunity is even more clear in the European constituencies. As the Commission note themselves, most of the submissions received suggested a move to 3 four seaters but they have plumped for leaving things as is, not withstanding the fact that this leaves Dublin under represented by almost 11%.
The big losers in this redrawing are FG. Most constituencies that have been severely changed seem to hit them the hardest and any improvements are not sufficient to pick up additional seats. While again the Dublin South example springs to mind, the same is true in Donegal where Dinny McGinley's seat could be vulnerable to a small FF bounce in the newly extended five seater. Similarly they are fairly banjaxed around Cork city with the loss of a lot of Jerry Buttimer's natural territory to North Central.
The largest number of submissions to the Commission were on the Swords issue and having ignored the issue last time out, I am glad that Swords has been reunited into a single constituency. Less pleasing to me is the pandering to the upwardly mobile of East Kimmage, or West Terenure as they call themselves, and their inclusion into the stupidly named Dublin Bay South. From a personal point of view it makes it almost impossible to hold two Labour seats in the constituency short of a miracle. Creighton and Murphy must be celebrating this evening with Andrews having a tipple or two as well.
So what's next? The Oireachtas has to now enact an Electoral Act that enshrines these new boundaries into law. It is almost beyond contemplation that the recommendations would be tinkered with by the Oireachtas, thereby undermining the independence of the review. But based on Phil Hogan's recent track record one can never be too sure, even though his own Carlow-Kilkenny constituency is left unchanged.
The local election boundaries will also have to be redrawn now to conform more closely to the D&aacuute;il constituencies. I imagine that process will start over the summer with submissions accepted up until the end of the year. A report in February/March will allow for more than a year's bedding in before the local and European elections in June 2014. Time to crank up the spreadsheets and mapping software again!
P.S. I have been informed by Chris Andrews via Twitter that he does not partake of alcoholic beverages. I apologise for any slur to his good name implied by my above comment!