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'The big thing is I can vote for myself' - Here's what boundary changes mean for some TDs

We’re getting two more TDs and one less constituency.

4/2/2016 General Election Campaigns Starts Posters ahead of the 2016 general election. Source: RollingNews.ie

PORTARLINGTON, CO LAOIS is moving to Kildare while Monasterevin, Co Kildare is moving from Laois/Offaly back to Kildare.

Not really of course.

What we’re referring to are some of the proposed constituency boundary changes that are likely to come into effect ahead of the next general election.

The Constituency Commission Report 2017 was published a fortnight ago and proposed a number of changes based on census data. Not least an increase in TDs from 158 to 160.

This increase in TDs will be spread across a reduction in the actual number of constituencies from 40 to 39.

Some constituents will gain a seat or lose a seat while some boundaries will simply change, meaning some voters will be voting for different TDs that they did last time.

But given that it’s all very technical and local, let’s take a look at some of the biggest changes and to some of the politicians the changes may affect.

Dublin Central

PastedImage-16442 TDs for Dublin Central Source: TheJournal.ie

The constituency of Dublin Central has had many iterations over the years but is now located wholly on the north side of the Liffey and comprises most of the north inner city.

The constituency was a three-seater in the last general election but is now gaining voters from parts of Drumcondra and Glasnevin and will get an extra seat as a result.

That extra seat will mean it returns to the four-seats it has had for most of its recent history. For a long-time the constituency was the demesne of Bertie Ahern who usually brought a second Fianna Fáil TD with him.

Since the fall of Bertie there’s been no Fianna Fáil TD there but the party will certainly have its eye on one now there’s an extra seat.

Not that it’ll be easy though, both Gary Gannon (SocDems) and Christy Burke (Ind) finished ahead of Mary Fitzpatrick (FF) last time out.

Burke, who was previously Lord Mayor of Dublin and was Sinn Féin for most of his political life, says he thinks the areas previously loyal to Bertie are no longer so.

“Drumcondra, Glasnevin used to be Bertie Ahern-land, not so much Fianna Fail-land but Bertie Ahern-land,” Burke says.

That’s changed and the attitude of the electorate, especially the younger generation is that they won’t follow suit on the previous generation or that of their parents. It leaves someone in with a chance, maybe not connected with a party.

While there maybe space for someone unconnected to a party, it’s perhaps questionable whether there is space for two.

Elections Results Maureen O'Sullivan with the late Tony Gregory's brother Noel after the 2009 by-election. Source: Mark Stedman/RollingNews.ie

Independent Maureen O’Sullivan has held the seat of her former friend and colleague Tony Gregory since 2009 and she told TheJournal.ie that she will seek to get re-elected in the next general election.

Last time out she beat Gary Gannon by fewer than 300 votes so it’s likely to be another close run thing.

“The mantra from the late Tony Gregory was we don’t mind what anybody else is doing we just get on with our own work,” she says, before adding that the boundary changes are frustrating.

It is unsettling because the areas that would have come back I would have been involved there in 2009 and 2011. So you get to know the issues, you get to know the electorate, they know that you’re their TD.
We lost that at some stage between 2011 and 2016 and now they’re back in. So there’s an unsettling feeling about it, I wish they could be fixed.

IMG_0567 Dublin Central is getting an extra seat and gaining some voters from Dublin North West. Source: Constituency Commission

As Dublin Central gains a seat it also gains some electoral wards from Dublin North West and this could lead to some collateral damage for those in that area.

Chief among them could be Noel Rock TD who took a Fine Gael seat in the DNW for the first time in 24 years.

The boundary changes mean some leafy parts the constituency are being transferred to Dublin Central and this could hurt the Fine Gael candidate in the left-leaning DNW.

Rock spoke honestly about how the changes could affect his vote:

The change means that about one-fifth of the people who voted for me in the last election now won’t be able to do so in this election. So obviously from that point of view it’s a little bit disappointing, but nevertheless we do still have a constituency full of diversity and full of different areas across the northside, so it’s certainly something that I will look forward to in the future.

The young deputy also reiterated O’Sullivan’s complaints about shifting boundaries but added that having Taoiseach Leo Vardakar in a neighbouring constituency could be an asset.

Laois/Offaly

pjimage (3) TDs for Laois (above) and Offaly (below). Source: TheJournal.ie

In the change that reduces the number of constituencies from 50 to 49, the three-seat constituencies of Laois and Offaly are being rejoined to create the five-seat Laois/Offaly.

The counties of Laois and Offaly were a single constituency in every general election except the last one and they will return to be so in the next.

The constuency is also losing some areas to Tipperary and Kildare.

For most of its history the seats in Laois/Offaly have been shared between Fianna Fáil and Fianna Gael.

A Cowen, either Bernard, Brian or Barry, has been elected in each election since 1977.

The 2011 general election saw Brian Stanley (SF) breaking the two-party dominance in the five-seater. Last year, when the constituency was broken in two, his party colleague Carol Nolan (SF) also took a seat in Offaly.

PastedImage-24643 Laois/Offaly is to be combined but will also lose areas to Tipperary and Kildare South. Source: Constituency Commission

The addition of Nolan is the only change since the 2011 election but now that the sixth seat is being cut she denies her seat is the most at risk.

“I think that’s just speculation,” she told TheJournal.ie.

I think that some of the parties seem to be extremely arrogant and cocky in that they think it’s their right or entitlement to retain a seat but it’s not it’s up to them. The people of the constituency vote and I’m convinced that the people of the constituency will see the hard work that I’m doing.

Asked if Sinn Féin will be looking to take two seats, Nolan says that will be their aim.

“We will most certainly, one in Laois, one in Offaly.”

Kildare South

PastedImage-68733 Current TDs for Kildare South Source: TheJournal.ie

As mentioned above, Laois/Offaly is losing some areas to Kildare, Kildare South to be precise, and as a result the constituency is now gaining an extra seat.

The extra seat for Kildare South means the county as a whole now has eight seats, joint with Galway in being behind Cork and Dublin as the counties with the most TDs.

The constituency elected two Fianna Fáil TDs and one Fine Gael TD last time and is also home to Ceann Comhairle Sean Ó Fearghaill (FF), who will be automatically re-elected next time out.

The guaranteed seat for Fianna Fáil means the party could push for two more in an upcoming vote.

PastedImage-4729 Source: Constituency Commission

Labour’s Mark Wall was the closest runner-up last time out and says that the extra seat will definitely help, even if the electoral area becomes larger.

“The new Kildare South is a massive geographical area and it will take an awful lot of representing, there’s absolutely no doubt about that,” he says, adding that voters in the Monatseriven and Chructown area are glad to be return to Kildare.

Athy-based Wall says the changes will mean he will actually be able to vote for himself.

“The big thing is I could not vote for myself in the last general election because I live in the Churchtown electoral area which is two miles outside Athy,” he says.

That’s how close we were. Myself and my family could not vote for me the last time out because we were the wrong side of an imaginary boundary of someone living in Dublin.

Read: Micheál Martin thinks Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is ‘being unfair’ to gardaí over Jobstown case >

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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