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Constituency Review Submission from Francis Watters

Francis Watters

Submission ID: S425

Date

10/05/2023

Constituency

Louth

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The current population of the ‘Louth ‘Constituency is 167,012 which results in 33,402 population per TD. The boundaries of the constituency was enlarged at the 2011 general election to include an area of County Meath adjacent to the town of Drogheda[ This followed a recommendation of the Report of the Constituency Commission on Dáil and European Parliament Constituencies 2007. This provided that “by extending the constituency southwards from, and in the environs of, Drogheda and taking in electoral divisions which have extensive linkages with the town. This will allow the inclusion of the town of Drogheda and hinterland areas in a single constituency.” This revision also increased the number of seats to 5.

The population of the administrative county of Louth on its own is now 139100 [2022 Census] The county population of 139,100 is possible enough on its own to sustain five seats, this is 27,820 population per seat. Whether this would meet the ‘5% tolerance’ suggested in the various superior court decisions would depend on the number of Dail seats ultimately recommended by the Electoral Commission. would allow this.

Many of the submissions to date in respect to the existing constituency of Louth reflect the rationale of the Constituency Commission finding in 2007, that “by extending the constituency southwards from, and in the environs of, Drogheda and taking in electoral divisions which have extensive linkages with the town. This will allow the inclusion of the town of Drogheda and hinterland areas in a single constituency.”

Therefore, there would appear to be two possible rationales underpinning the consideration of the revision of the current Louth Dail Constituency.

  1. ‘The breaching of county boundaries shall be avoided as far as practicable.’ In this context the administrative county of Louth is the smallest administrative county by area in the State but contains two of the largest towns in the State, Dundalk and Drogheda at either end of the said administrative county.
  2. How do you allow for the inclusion of the town of Drogheda and hinterland areas in a single constituency, a rationale which is reflected in the deliberations of the Constituency Commission report in 2007 and many of the submissions in respect to the constituency of Louth to the current deliberations of the Electoral Commission.

From 1981 to 2011, the constituency of Louth consisted of the administrative county of Louth, returning 4 TDs. Since 2011 it has comprised of the administrative county of Louth and a number of electoral divisions in the county of Meath, which are considered ‘hinterland areas’ of Drogheda. Throughout this period, the constituency has returned 5 TDs although the overall number of TDs nationally varied from 166 in 2011, to 158 in 2016 and 160 in 2020.

There would appear to be two possible approaches to a revision of the current Louth constituency, in the context of the 2022 Census results, neither of which can accommodate the achievement of the two suggested rationales for revision as set out above.

  1. Create two constituencies of the existing Louth constituency plus part of the existing Meath East constituency [North Louth and South Louth/East Meath]. This would allow for the creative of two three set constituencies, however it would have ‘knock-on effects for the constituency make-up in the remainder of County Meath as an additional part of county Meath would be required to create a constituency of South Louth/East Meath. This would meet rationale 2 as set out above but not rational 1.
  2. Retain Louth as a five-seat constituency which would probably require that part of the electoral divisions of Meath that are currently included in this constituency would need to be ‘returned’ to the East Meath constituency to achieve the required population distribution as provided for by Article 16.2.2˚ of the Constitution.

On balance the argument in favour of not breaching the county boundary of the smallest geographical county in the State and maintaining continuity of a constituency which has existed, with minor alterations since 1923, is probably the better outcome of the current constituency revision process.

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