Sinn Féin to benefit most from constituency reform

World of Politics with Harry McGee

At the end of this month, the newly-established Electoral Commission will announce one of the most radical constituency redraws in the history of the State.

It will have far-reaching ramifications not only for the constituencies but the complexion of politics in Ireland for the next generation.

The last precedent in recent political history was the so-called Tullymander of the 1972 to 1977 Government. The Meath Labour TD Jim Tully was Minister for Local Government and decided that the more three-seat constituencies there were, the more chance the Fine Gael-Labour government had of surviving intact after the 19977 general election.

In the event, it backfired on them. Jack Lynch’s Fianna Fáil won the election by a landslide with one of the biggest majorities in the history of the State.

But that huge victory also disguised a hidden danger that we have often seen since then.

Big majorities don’t give the comfort blanket that you think. Counterintuitively, the corrosion sets in very quickly, partly due to a huge number of back bench TDs with very little to do except vote with the Government in the Dáil and read out long speeches. Lobby fodder was Barry Andrews’ classic description of that species.

This time it’s going to be change of a different order. Nobody is going in with an agenda to run a coach and four through the existing constituencies. This time it’s due to a massive population increase.

Article 16 of the Constitution specifies there must be one TD for between 20,000 and 30,000 of the population.

For much of the first century of the State, the ratio stayed closer to the lower 20,000 mark. That was a time when there were only between 100 and 150 seats in the Dáil.

Pictured: Jack Lynch…landslide win after last major reform.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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