Status quo to remain for West’s skewed boundaries

Across county bounds...Michael Fitzmaurice after his election.
Across county ...Michael Fitzmaurice after his election.

Sometime next month, the Constituency Commission will be making its recommendations on what changes will be needed in advance of the next general election.

The changes are based on the Census – so where there’s an overall increase in population, they increase the number of seats. And if the population of a particular area grows or falls, that will be reflected by an addition of a seat or the removal of a seat.

As part of a lob-sided package of political reform, then-Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan – the Wreck-it-Ralph of Irish politics – decided to reduce the number of Dáil seats from 166 to 158.

That created havoc, not least in the West.

Now the number is being increased but only marginally – to either 159 or 160 – because of the overall population increase, which is at the highest now since the Famine.

It’s not great news for the West though – because the big population bulges have been in the East, in Dublin and in the commuter counties that surround it.

Indeed, we are seeing a juggernaut that nobody is copped-on enough to stop – totally skewed and totally imbalanced regional development, with the east coast getting three quarters of everything and the rest left with the crumbs.

So if there is one extra seat, the northside of Dublin will get it. If there are two extra seats, it will be the rest of Leinster that will benefit.

On the other hand, the news isn’t great for Galway, Mayo and Roscommon, in so much as we will be left with the constituencies we have.

The commission is made up of technocrats, headed by Judge Robert Haughton, and including the Ombudsman, the Clerk of the Dáil, the Clerk of the Seanad, and the Secretary General of the Department of Housing and Local Government.

It’s the Minister in that Department, Simon Coveney, who decides on the numbers and will decide on the recommendations – but, in practice, I can’t remember a Minister ever rejecting a report.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.