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Ireland’s Statutory, Independent Electoral Commission

Constituency Review Submission from Wexford Constituency Labour Party

Wexford Constituency Labour Party

Submission ID: S248





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Submission to the Electoral Commission from the Wexford Constituency Labour Party

The current constituency of Wexford is wholly contained in the county of Wexford. It has a population of 163,527, and an average population from the last Census of 32,705 people per TD. A redraw of boundaries will be required to meet the constitutional requirement of no more than 30,000 people per TD.

The Commission should have particular regard to the history of the Wexford constituency. Since 1923 Wexford has been allocated 5 seats, apart from a twenty year period from 1961 to 1981 when a portion of the county in the rural district of Enniscorthy was placed in the constituency of Carlow-Kilkenny, and the remaining Wexford constituency elected 4 TDs.

The Commission must decide the total number of members of the Dáil but assuming an even number is retained, there will be at least 12 extra seats, and up to 20. The total number of seats will determine what the average population per TD will be, and what the acceptable level of variance per constituency will be. Whatever decision the Commission makes on this matter will not neatly resolve the future boundaries for Wexford or neighbouring constituencies.

Taking the maximum seats scenario of 20 extra seats in a 180 seat Dáil, would be an average population of 28,464 people per TD, and Wexford would be entitled to 5.75 seats. The guidance from the Oireachtas to the Electoral Commission did not provide for the option of 6 seat constituencies which would have helped address the current underrepresentation of Wexford people.

This issue of 6 seaters will have to be addressed by the Oireachtas in future, if we are to avoid the wholesale breach of county boundaries, and the creation of multiple new three seat constituencies which result in a less proportional outcome. We would welcome an opinion from the Commission on this matter.

This constraint on the Commission will mean difficult decisions will have to be made in many county based constituencies. If six seats were allocated to Wexford in a 180 seat Dáil it would have a variance of -4.25% per TD from the national average which is high at the maximum level of seats, and at lower seat levels would require the addition of population, or else the removal of areas to retain a 5 seat constituency.

We would strongly argue against the creation of two 3 seat constituencies in the current county of Wexford as it would be:

  • a departure from a century of accepted boundaries where more often than not the people of Wexford have elected 5 TDs from the geographical county;
  • result in less proportional representation for the people of the county;
  • create two small constituencies with a high variance would likely require the addition of population from a neighbouring county.

The option of a six seat constituency could have avoided this problem and future proofed the county constituency for continued population growth.

For the following reasons, and until such time as the Oireachtas agrees to 6 seat constituencies, we would argue for the retention of a 5 seat Wexford based constituency as:

  • The Commission terms of reference from the Oireachtas says it shall have regard to: “endeavour to maintain continuity in relation to the arrangement of constituencies”. A five seat constituency drawn from the significant majority of Wexford would achieve this.
  • It gives due recognition to the constitutional requirement for proportional representation in Article 16.2.5 (The members shall be elected on the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote) as a five seat constituency gives a more proportional outcome than a three or four seat constituency.

To accommodate a 5 seat constituency a portion of the county would have to be included in another neighbouring constituency until the next Census and consequent redrawing of boundaries and any change to the seat size of constituencies. This option is the least worst option for the people of Wexford when it comes to redrawing the boundaries and the expression of their democratic will, as it maintains the current and long established 5 seat structure, but recognises that a portion of the county has been redrawn into a neighbour in the past when required, and a breach of the county boundary will also be required if the Commission opted a 4 seat Wexford option, and similarly a neighbouring county boundary would likely have to be breached if it opted for a two 3 seat option which would be a significant departure from the historical arrangement of the Wexford constituency. 

We thank the Commission for its work and time in considering this submission.

Yours sincerely,

Wexford Constituency Labour Party

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