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Ireland’s Statutory, Independent Electoral Commission

Constituency Review Submission from Cllr Frank McDermott

Cllr Frank McDermott

Submission ID: S552

Date

10/05/2023

Constituency

Longford-Westmeath

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Dear Chair,

I am writing to you in response to the request made by the Electoral Commission inviting written submissions in relation to the formation of constituencies for the election of members to Dáil Éireann and to the European Parliament, in accordance with section 56 of the Electoral Reform Act 2022 and following the publication of the 2022 Census Preliminary results.

My submission specifically relates to the Dáil constituency of Longford Westmeath. I am of the firm belief that county Westmeath should not be divided when it comes to electing members of Dáil Éireann.

As a member of Westmeath County Council since 1967 and having served as Chairman of the Council in 2004, and as Cathaoirleach in 2016-17, I believe I have an insight into how the operation of this constituency currently woks, but more importantly how it could work better to serve the population in a more effective, resourceful and representative manner. Westmeath County Council overlaps both Meath West and Longford/Westmeath and residents of the county vote for local county councillors from Westmeath, however when it comes to voting in general elections, many of the local voters in my area are unfamiliar with the Meath West candidates, and feel side lined by choices restricted to candidates from another county to represent them. While I fully acknowledge the heavy workload of TDs, Meath West TDs unfortunately have a very poor record at attending Oireachtas briefings organised by Westmeath County Council. This can be verified by a review of minutes from these meetings.

Census 2022 showed that the population of Westmeath alone has increased by 7,000 since 2016.  The Constituency Commission report of 2017 considered transferring a “population of over 8,600 in nineteen electoral divisions from Meath West to Longford-Westmeath” thus restoring the breach of the Westmeath count boundary.  Although The Electoral (Amendment) Act 1997, Section 6 (2)(c), states “the breaching of county boundaries shall be avoided as far as practicable”, they opted to not take this option at the time, however the data from the Census highlights that this is now a viable option, allowing the Constituency to operate in line with our Constitution.

Westmeath is a proud county, and even King Henry VIII recognised in 1542 that we are separate from our brethren in County Meath, when he divided the region in two. North Westmeath in particular has a proud historical, sporting and educational tradition and towns such as Castlepollard, Collinstown, Delvin and Fore, naturally gravitate not to Navan, but to Mullingar.

For the above reasons, I feel strongly that Westmeath in totality should be reunited as part of our constituency in respect of future general elections.

I trust you will consider the above as part of your deliberations.

Cllr Frank McDermott

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