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Constituency Review Submission from Brendan Fleming

Brendan Fleming

Submission ID: S462





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To the Members of the Commission,

I refer to the Dáil Constituency Boundary Review and specifically to the Laois/Offaly Constituency.  

For many decades the counties of Laois and Offaly have been a single 5-seat constituency. There were a few exceptions in recent years which involved moving parts of the Laois/Offaly constituency in and out of neighbouring constituencies.  

The combined population of Laois and Offaly is now 174,325 and a 5-seat constituency is no longer possible due to the constitutional limit of 30,000 per TD.  The population suggests a need for 6 Dáil seats covering the two counties.  This would give and average population of 29,054 per Dáil seat.  The obvious solution would be to recommend two 3-seat constituencies, one based on County Laois, and one based on County Offaly.  

However, because the population of Laois is 91,657, this would result in a population of 30,552 per TD, if based on the county boundary, and this is not permitted.  Offaly, with a population of 82,668, would then result in a

population of 27,556 per TD, based on the county boundary, and this is likely to be outside the variation which the Commission will seek to achieve nationally.  

A simple solution would be to transfer a small area of Laois into the new Offaly constituency thereby creating balance and meeting the requirement for equality of representation.  As the difference in population between Laois and Offaly is 8,989 a transfer of population amounting to approximately 4,000 – 5,000 from Laois to Offaly would be the most logical approach to adopt.  

In selecting such an area, the Commission should have regard to minimising the breaching of county boundaries to the greatest extent possible while taking geographical, physical features and population density into consideration.  

The most obvious area where this can be achieved is in the town of Portarlington.  The county boundary between Laois and Offaly already runs through the town of Portarlington, with Portarlington North DED on the Offaly side and Portarlington South DED on the Laois side.  

The population of Portarlington South DED is 7,856.  If all of this DED was transferred to the new Offaly constituency, this would result in an imbalance whereby the new Offaly constituency would have a population in excess of 30,000.  The Commission would then have to consider transferring other parts of Offaly back into Laois.  This can readily be avoided by transferring just part of the Portarlington South DED to the new Offaly constituency and leaving the remainder of the Portarlington South DED in the Laois constituency.  

If the Commission adopts this approach, it may be of interest to note the

Galway railway line, the Canal Road (route of a former branch of the Grand Canal) and the built-up area are significant features which could assist in determining the part of the Portarlington South DED that could be transferred to the new Offaly constituency.  

The Commission’s attention is also drawn to the fact that Laois County Council and Offaly County Council have produced a Local Area Development Plan for Portarlington and this is included in the County Development Plans for both counties.  The co-operation at local level in terms of the democratic process is mirrored by the fact that several public services, such as education, health and social protection, are delivered on a town basis rather than on a county boundary basis.  Similarly, the economic, social and cultural life of Portarlington also functions on a town basis.  Making a change solely for constituency boundary purposes would not have a significant impact on the daily lives of the people in Portarlington.  

The Portarlington change recommended above is the simplest, the most obvious and the most practical solution in respect of Laois and Offaly.  It fulfils the Commission’s primary objective by achieving the appropriate population per TD for the two new 3-seat constituencies of Laois and Offaly.  Not following this approach would clearly result in further and unnecessary breaches of county boundaries which can be avoided.  The above recommendation is both practicable and in line with the Commission’s terms of reference.  

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