Constituency Review Submission from Cathriona Clooney
Submission ID: S34
I wish to make a submission and I want to focus primarily on the Laois/Offaly constituency.
Over almost all the years, Laois/Offaly has traditionally been a one 5-seat Dail constituency. They were split into two 3-seat constituencies on one occasion. This was only done so by breaching of county boundaries which is not now in accordance with the terms of reference of the Commission, except in special circumstances.
Currently, parts of both Laois and Offaly are included in the Kildare South constituency. This has resulted in a number of breaches of the traditional county boundaries. There is no reason why this should happen now on this occasion, due to the recent population increases.
Currently, the population in the surrounding counties has increased, especially in Kildare, which now has a population of 246,997. There is no need for any part of Laois or Offaly to be included with Kildare on this occasion, as this would again result in unnecessary breaches of county boundaries.
Similarly, Carlow/Kilkenny has never been linked with the Laois/Offaly constituency. The river Barrow has been the county boundary in this area, by and large, and there is no need to make any changes here. To do so, would involve unnecessary breaches of the county boundaries.
Also, Tipperary should not be included with any part of Laois or Offaly, as it would involve breaches of county and provincial boundaries.
It is explicit in the terms of reference that the breaching of county boundaries shall be avoided as far as practicable.
In my view, it is also implicit that provincial boundaries should not be breached, as to do so, would involve a breach of county boundaries in the first instance.
Currently, the populations of Laois and Offaly is 174,325. This gives an average population per TD, for the current 5-seat constituency of 34,865. This is clearly not in line with the Constitution. Two 3-seat constituencies are the clear and obvious option for Laois and Offaly.
Two exact 3-seat constituencies based on county boundaries would not work because the population per TD in Laois would be 30,552. This is above the constitutional limit. This can be dealt with by transferring some of the population from a Laois constituency to an Offaly constituency.
The terms of reference states that the number of TDs may be increased to 181 and the minimum number of TDs would be 171. To give some flexibility to the Commission, they should settle for any number from 1 7 6 to 181 TDs. If the number of TDs was set at 171, it would lead to several breaches of county boundaries, which is against the spirit of and the actual terms of reference.
The current population is 5, 123,536. If the decision is to have 176 TDs, the population per TD would be 29, 111. For 181 TDs, the population per TD would be 28,306. In these situations, there would be negligible population variation per TD for both the new Laois and Offaly constituencies compared with the national average.
The most obvious and straightforward way of dealing with this issue is to transfer 4,500 people from Portarlington South OED into a new Offaly constituency. Currently, the county boundary between Laois and Offaly already runs through the town of Portarlington. Part of the town is in Laois and part of the town is in Offaly. This would work at a very practical level for the people who live in Portarlington and not cause any significant disruption.
Those areas of population in Portarlington closest to the Laois/Offaly county boundary are the obvious areas to be transferred within the town of Portarlington to the Offaly constituency. It must also be remembered that Porarlington North OED is already in county Offaly. This is the best way of achieving the terms of reference without any further unnecessary breaches of county boundaries.
Portarlington South OED currently has a population of 7,856. This proposal will require some of the OED transferring to an Offaly constituency, while leaving the remainder of the OED in the Laois constituency. Portarlington South OED consists of a number of townlands, with the vast bulk of the population concentrated in one townland. The work of the Commission may require to transfer some of this townland into the Offaly constituency and the Commission should carry out this work to achieve the most practical solution for this area. To transfer the full OED would require a number of the population of Offaly transferring into the Laois constituency, to achieve an appropriate variation of population per TD. This would involve an unnecessary extra breach of county boundaries.
Ideally, a preferred option would be to have two separate 3-seat constituencies for county Laois and county Offaly. However, this may not work due to the strong increase in population in county Laois in recent years. It is necessary, obvious, straightforward and in line with the terms of reference of the Commission to have two 3-seat constituencies in the Laois/Offaly area, but this can only be achieved with the transfer of approximately 4,500 people from Laois to a new Offaly constituency.
The Commission should look no further than Portarlington town, as there is no need to do so, in respect of achieving the appropriate population per TD in these two new 3-seat constituencies, which would be in line with the national average. To not follow this option, clearly would result in further and unnecessary breaches of county boundaries and this can be avoided as the above recommendation is practicable and in line with the terms of reference.