The definitive Census 2011 population figures have been published today. Election boundary changes (for general and European elections) will be made on the basis of these, but this time are taking place in the context of a decision by government to advise a reduction in Dail seat numbers by between 6 (160 seats) and 13 (153 seats). So what do these population figures mean in terms of which constituencies may, or may not, be likely to have their election boundaries changed following on the upcoming Consituency Commission report, especially given that this body effectively will have eight different options in terms of total Dáil seat numbers to choose from? The accompanying document, which outlines the degree to which each constituency’s population per TD ratio will vary (in percentage terms) from the state average for each of the different seat number options open to the Commission, should help in regard to this.

Constituency changes that are likely for the different seat number options based on comparison of population per TD ratios with the state average.

What is evident from this analysis is that the main driver of change in relation to the redrawing of Dáil election boundaries this time will probably be more so the decision to reduce Dáil seat numbers over and above those changes required by differential levels of population change within the state. Had the number of seats remained at 166, changes to constituency boundaries would have been absolutely necessary in just 12% of cases (where level of variance exceeds 7.89%) and would have been probable in a further 25% of cases (where level of variance exceeds 5% but not 7.89%). When you are faced with a 160-seat option (the largest option open to the Constituency Commission), changes to constituency boundaries would now be absolutely necessary in 23% of cases (where level of variance exceeds 7.89%) and would be probable in a further 26% of cases (where level of variance exceeds 5% but not 7.89%). The level of changes required further increases in line with decisions to reduce Dáil seat number by even higher levels and for a 153-seat option (the smallest seat number option open to the Constituency Commission), changes to constituency boundaries would now be absolutely necessary in 53% of cases (where level of variance exceeds 7.89%) and would be probable in a further 19% of cases (where level of variance exceeds 5% but not 7.89%).

Given the impressively small level of variation between the provisional (based on enumerator returns) and definitive population figures for the constituencies, earlier posts by me on my elections commentary blog site (which were based on the provisional Census figures) as to what might happen in relation to decisions to be taken by the Constituency Commission in relation to changes to Dáil election boundaries still largely hold true. For these (and any further updates) please go to: http://geographyspecialinterestgroup.wordpress.com/category/constituency-commission/

Regionally, the constituency boundary changes are most likely to effect the Dublin region, followed by the Munster and Connacht-Ulster region – all these regions are likely to lose between two and three seats even if the Commission opts for a seat number towards the upper end of the range of options available to them. The Leinster (rest of) region is least likely to be affected by these changes and this region would only be likely to lose a seat if the Commission opted for a seat number towards the very lower end of the range of options that is available to them.

At the constituency level, the most likely changes to arise from the upcoming Constituency Commission report would include:

  • The end of the Kerry North-West Limerick and Kerry South constituencies and the creation of a 5-seat Kerry county constituency.
  • The loss of a seat by one of the Cork constituencies, most likely to be either Cork South-Central or Cork North-Central
  • The loss of a seat by either Dublin South-Central or Dublin South-East.
  • The loss of a seat by either Dún Laoghaire, Dublin South or Dublin South-West.
  • The abolition of one of the three three-seat Dublin North City constituencies (Dublin North-Central, Dublin North-East and Dublin North-West) with these to be amalgamated into two different constituencies.
  • The loss of a seat by the Taoiseach’s own constituency, Mayo, unless this constituency receives a territory transfer involving the western parts of either neighbouring Roscommon or Sligo.
  • The possible loss of a seat by Cavan-Monaghan and the possible loss of a seat between the two three-seat Donegal constituencies (especially if the Commission opt for a seat option  towards the lower end of the range), resulting in territory transfers that may affect neighbouring constituencies such as Sligo-North Leitrim and Roscommon-South Leitrim and potentially allow (finally!) for the political reunification of Leitrim county.
  • The probable return of the Hacketstown area to the Carlow-Kilkenny constituency if the Commission opts to for a number of seats towards the upper end of the range (e.g. 160 seats).
  • The probable return of the Castlepollard area to the Longford-Westmeath constituency and the south Offaly area to the Laois-Offaly constituency if the Commission opts to for a number of seats towards the lower end of the range (e.g. 153 or 154 seats).

One interesting point to note is that if the population increase between the 2011 Census and the next census in 2016 proved to be exactly the same as that between 2006 and 2011 the population in the Republic of Ireland would then stand at 4,965,286. Given the requirement in the Constitution that there be one TD for every 30,000 people (a factor that limited the possible reduction in Dail seat for the 2011-12 Constituency Commission revision to a range between 6 and 13, as the smallest number of Dail seats you can have with a population of 4,588, 292 is 153), the smallest number of Dail seats that the Commission would be able to choose in the next revision would be 166 based on aprojected 2016 population figure of 4,965,286, which of course is the current seat level in Dail Eireann.

More on the various permutations on http://geographyspecialinterestgroup.wordpress.com/category/census2011-definitive-figures/

To download the Census 2011 data visit the CSO website here

To view interactive graphs/maps of Census 2011: visit http://www.airo.ie/mapping-module/census

Adrian Kavanagh

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