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Constituency Review Submission from Niall Kierans, Chairman, Love Drogheda, Business Improvement District

Niall Kierans, Chairman, Love Drogheda, Business Improvement District

Submission ID: S283

Date

07/05/2023

Constituency

Louth, Meath East

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Dear Sir/Madam

I would like to take this opportunity to make the following submission in relation to the electoral boundaries in Drogheda / East Meath.

Ireland’s two largest towns are situated in Co. Louth. County Town Dundalk (population 39,004) and Drogheda (pop 40,956) all figures per CSO  2016

Drogheda is presently governed and administered by its two nearest county towns. Drogheda, Co. Louth is managed from Dundalk and Drogheda, Co. Meath is managed from Navan, Co. Meath. 

This means that Irelands largest town endures the distinction of having little say on both day to day operations or planning for its future. All decisions, relative to Drogheda, are made remotely in the two county towns mentioned above or alternatively in our capital, Dublin. Drogheda in effect endures the anomaly of being governed, in the main, by its smaller and slower growing, remote, county towns.

Population growth statistics for the town of Drogheda over the 20 year period, 1996 to 2016, show Droghedas growth as being 84.2% (see attachment) This is clearly well in excess of any other urban centre on the island of Ireland.

It is all the more remarkable, when one considers, that it does not include any of the construction that has occurred, south of Drogheda, in the contiguous conglomeration in Co. Meath of Laytown  Bettystown, Mornington & Donnacarney. LBMD (pop 11,872) An area that is now growing even faster than the town of Drogheda. Furthermore, the population of these adjoining villages, and of Drogheda town, south (in Co Meath) are not included in Drogheda’s census figures, 

while Dundalk includes the village of Blackrock (pop approx up to 5,000) as being part of its urban population. This, despite their obvious separation from each other by undeveloped lands and the sporting lands of Dundalk GC.

The population figures, as presently construed, conspire, deliberately or otherwise, to skew the figures. If Drogheda north and south were to be combined with LBMD, its immediate urban population per 2016 census figures would be circa 52,828. Thus giving Drogheda a population almost identical to that of Waterford (53,504) However all the above figures are already wildly out of date as anecdotally, and as the imminent urban population statistics from the CSOs 2021 census are likely to prove, that population expansion in the environs of Drogheda and East Meath have accelerated ahead of most, if not all other, urban areas in the State. 

Interestingly 50,000 is the generally accepted figure, Europe wide, that is used to define/recognise a city and with this in mind we have in Drogheda a campaign, of which I have some involvement, to have Drogheda recognised as such. 

It was no coincidence that Droghedas recent drug fuelled lawless past came to pass when it did. This primarily came about because of the considerable neglect Drogheda has suffered by its local authorities, AGS and almost all state bodies, with the notable exception of the HSE who have a dominant presence in Drogheda, with the Lourdes Hospital, the de facto Regional General Hospital for the North East.

Furthermore, if Drogheda were to include the population of LBMD, as is done with Blackrock in Dundalk, then Droghedas contigious population would now in fact be 73,249 as indicated from the early results from the 2021 census.

Added to that is the, long planned but only recently started, Port Access Northern Cross Route (PANCR) This is a peripheral route at the northern end of Drogheda. This route will divert heavy traffic from Drogheda port around the town in a fashion not dissimilar to Dublins M50. This route, within the town boundary, opens up lands for development. Presently there are plans for over 7,500 homes here in three tranches over the next few years. This will add approximately 20,000 residents in time and in effect, will be the equivalent of adding on a substantial Irish sized town onto Drogheda. This will move our population figures well past Waterfords’ and closer to that of Limerick (pop 94,192) See attached articles from Drogheda Life & The Irish Times

In the 2017 local electoral boundary review Drogheda lost two of its elected Councillors, as the area of Tinure/ Monasterboice was moved up into mid Louth.

Similarly mid Louth lost 2 Councillors as Dromiskin was moved up into Dundalk south.

This in effect meant Drogheda lost 2 of its councillors and Dundalk gained 2. This had the result that Drogheda’s representation went from 12 to 10, and Dundalks went from 10 to 12. This pushed the balance of power away from Irelands fastest growing and largest town up towards our smaller county town of Dundalk. 

Similarly as our local and general election boundaries do not match, it means that a Councillor in Drogheda, or East Meath, with Dail ambitions would end up canvassing in two different constituencies depending on what election was imminent. This is a very obvious and serious disadvantage, and does, in my mind, amount to being little short of egregious gerrymandering at its worst. 

Presently there are apparently plans to further modify the Dail constituencies with I believe a change from the 5 seats in Louth and 4 in East Meath to possibly 3 constituencies with three seats covering each.


All projections point towards a population in the area just north of Drogheda and stretching down into East Meath encompassing the conurbation of LBMD of somewhere close to 80,000 in the not too distant future.

I would impress upon the Electoral Boundary Review Board to bear the above observations in mind when assessing/reviewing boundaries in the Louth/ East Meath area. Presently our boundaries, as currently construed, do not reflect the local populations as they go about their living, working, eduacation, sporting and social lives. Drogheda is the social and business magnet for South Louth and East Meath, it is where most people in this area gravitate to as they conduct their lives. 

Our Local and General election boundaries should be identical. They should be representative  not only of the current population, but should take cognisance of and recognise and plan for the population explosion that is soon to follow in this region. 

For this reason I would advocate that the Drogheda / East Meath area would be better served as one 3 seat constituency for General Elections and difficult as it may be our Local Election Boundaries should be similar.

Yours

Niall Kierans

Chairman, Love Drogheda, Business Improvement District

Member of Drogheda City Status Group

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