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Friday 1 December 2023 Dublin: 1°C

Five things to look out for as the Dáil's constituency map is redrawn

We could find out today that we’re getting more than 20 new TDs after the next general election.

IT’S D-DAY for many politicians as the shape of the constituencies for the next general election will be revealed today. 

While most politicians have been avoiding thinking about what their fate might be, the nation will find out just how many extra TDs will be in the Dáil next time around.

It’s being dubbed one of the biggest changes to Dáil constituencies in history, with many fearful that the changes could result in them losing their seat. 

So, what to look out for? 

NOMINATION OF A NEW TAOISEACH_2853180883_o Scenes from the Dail during the nominations for a new Taoiseach last year

There will be a lot more TDs in Leinster House after the next general election

It is predicted that after today’s constituency boundary changes are published, we could be looking at an extra 20 TDs in the Dáil after the next general election. Currently there are 160 serving TDs, so this means we could have around 180. 

How do we get to that number?

Well it is based on our Constitution, which deems that there must be, on average, one TD to represent every 20,000 to 30,000 people in the country.

There are currently 160 TDs across 39 electoral constituencies but based on the most recent Census there is only a TD for about every 32,200 people, with that ratio getting larger as the population grows. 

So, it is the Electoral Commission’s job to add additional seats to certain regions where populations have risen. It can only recommend three, four and five-seat constituencies – six-seater constituencies have been ruled out. 

While the Commission has said it will try to avoid breaching county lines where possible, this might not always be possible, resulting in some counties that are currently whole being split. 

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Unhappy heads 

Art O’Leary, the chief executive of the Electoral Commission, has said there will be “winners and losers” today but this isn’t the first time. 

Following the most recent redrawing of the map, Fine Gael’s Rock lost his Dublin North-West seat at the General Election in February 2020. 

Back in 2017, even before the election had happened, he told The Journal that the boundary change meant that about 20% of his voters were moved out of his constituency “at the stroke of a pen”.

Rock’s constituency had been redrawn with Drumcondra and Glasnevin shifting electoral areas.

He lost his seat to Fianna Fáil’s Paul McAuliffe by just 423 votes, although it should also be noted that Fine Gael lost 12 seats in a difficult election for the party. 

Fianna Fail sources also point to TD Brendan Smith, who was put at a disadvantage in the last election after parts of Cavan’s electoral areas were moved to Leitrim under boundary changes. He managed to hold on to his seat, despite many of his supporters not being able to vote for him due to the changes. 

What recourse will those that take issue have?

The review must be passed by the Dail and Seanad. However, Tanaiste Micheal Martin has urged politicians against tabling amendments to any of the changes.

“There will be complaints, I’m always relatively calm about these things: it did affect my constituency the last time,” he said.

“It is difficult, it is challenging particularly for Dublin where constituencies change quite significantly.

“It will be significant for individuals, for parties, but also for the Oireachtas in terms of the expansion of the Oireachtas, which I think is a good thing.

“But if one gets into a position where you have individual TDs or groups tabling amendments, that would be chaotic.”

This is the closest thing politicians will experience that resembles redundancy, so whether we’ll see some toys being thrown out of the pram, we will have to wait and see. 

Splitting up of constituencies 

Dublin’s Fingal, which is a five-seater, will have to be split, with a potential for the region to gain three seats. 

Speculation is that it could be split into two three-seat constituencies, a north and south Fingal. 

Large counties such as Wexford, Donegal, and Tipperary – all five-seater constituencies – are likely to be split into two three-seat constituencies.

This would be a big change to the people of Wexford and its politicians, dividing the county between two Dáil constituencies will be significant

Other ones to look out for are Carlow-Kilkenny, which could also be split into two constituencies. 

This has long been mooted, with Minister for Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan previously stating that the constituency could be broken up in the next election. 

Changes are predicted for Louth – which could be kept as a five-seater – however, whatever happens here will have a knock on impact on how the boundary is drawn in Meath. 

European seats 

While much of the focus today will be on the changes to constituency boundaries, the  Electoral Commission is also redrawing the European election constituencies.

For the European Parliament, the Commission will make its recommendation based on the current number of MEP seats rather than the proposed, but still unconfirmed additional seats for Ireland.

Ireland is due to get a 14th MEP for next year’s elections, so another change will be required. ​ 

You can see why the Electoral Commission review, which will be published today, has the potential to shake-up the Irish political landscape. 

leinster-house-in-dublin-the-irish-parliament Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

How will we fit more TDs into Leinster House? 

Once the number has been announced today, and the political casualties become clear, the next focus will be on where will they will all sit. 

The Dáil chamber can only fit so many TDs, so work will have to be undertaken to make room for newly elected politicians if the Dáil expands to over 180 TDs. 

The Oireachtas has asked the OPW to come up with suggestions for how to accommodate all the additional politicians as well as they staff they will need. 

A spokesperson for the Oireachtas told The Journal:

“The Houses of the Oireachtas and the OPW awaits the publication of the report and its recommendations before fully implementing any plans to make physical changes to the [ Dáil] Chamber.

“We have been engaging with the Office of Public Works on our plans to respond to and prepare for whatever increase arises and changes that may need to be made to the Dáil chamber.”

The Office of Public Works (OPW) told The Journal that it is planning works to the main chamber to accommodate additional TD numbers and is examining the property within the complex to identify where potential extra numbers can be accommodated.  

We wait and see exactly how many will be required. 


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