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The next Dáil will have at least 11 extra TDs

The minimum number of TDs will be 171, with some believing it could rise to 178.

There will be at least 11 new TDs following the next general election
There will be at least 11 new TDs following the next general election
Image: Laura Hutton/RollingNews.ie

THE NUMBER OF TDs in the Dáil is set to rise to at least 171 after the next general election due to Ireland’s rising population.

According to new preliminary statistics from Census 2022, Ireland’s population has risen to 5,123,536 people, the highest figure since 1841.

This will lead to an increase in the number of TDs who are elected to the 39 constituencies, due to the Constitution requiring one TD for every 20,000 to 30,000 people.

Due to the this higher population, the bare minimum number of TDs in the next Dáil will be 171, an increase of 11 compared to the current Dáil. At present, the Dáil chamber only has 160 seats.

The number of seats and how those seats are allocated to constituencies is decided by the Constituency Commission, which makes its decision based on population.

Earlier this year, the Cabinet approved an amendment to the Electoral Reform Bill, which now allows for the number of seats in the next Dáil to rise to at least 169 but not more than 179.

Speaking to The Journal, Adrian Kavanagh, lecturer at Maynooth University, said that he believes the number of seats the Constituency Commission will opt for will be higher than 171 to ensure consistency between elections.

“I think it’ll be a bit like what happened in the 2012 Commission. That they would probably go for a number towards the top of that range  in the belief that this is a number that they might be able to use again at the next commission after that.

“Seat numbers have changed in the last three Commissions and they tend to like stability. So I could see them going for 176 or even 178 on that basis in the expectation that even if the population increases, you’ll still be able to go with 178 for the next Commission.”

Alongside the higher number of seats, Kavanagh said that significant amounts of the 39 constituencies will also have to be redrawn to accommodate the new seats.

“Nearly everywhere it will have to be redrawn because you’re talking at least probably 11 seats when in reality probably 16 or 18 extra seats.

“So a five-seater like Wexford, they’ll have six seats next time but you can’t have a six-seater unless you change the rules.

“Wexford, a five-seater at the moment, based on the current terms of reference becomes two three-seaters,” Kavanagh said, adding that many of the current five-seat constituencies could become two three-seat constituencies.

When asked about what kind of impact this could have on seat gains for parties, Kavanagh said it would likely help out larger parties while make it more difficult for smaller parties.

“These smaller seat constituencies generally tended to favor the two largest parties, Fine Gael and especially Fianna Fáil.”

However, with the shift in politics and the increased support for Sinn Féin, Kavanagh believes that more three-seat constituencies could benefit Sinn Féin.

This would likely be to the detriment of smaller parties like Labour, the Social Democrats and People Before Profit.

Kavanagh also said that the additional three-seaters may bring Sinn Féin closer to a majority within the Dáil, citing the 2007 General Election when Fianna Fáil won 77 seats, just seven shy of a majority.

“If you look at say Fianna Fáil in 2007, they didn’t come that far off an overall majority in that election, even though they were only on. I think, 40% or 41% of the vote and that was because there was a lot of three-seaters again, so that helped them,” Kavanagh said.

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The Journal asked the Houses of the Oireachtas if the Dáil chamber or Leinster House will have to be refurbished in order to accommodate the additional TDs. 

It said in a statement:

“The increase in population and the consequent likely increase in membership of Dáil Éireann has been on our radar for several months. The Houses of the Oireachtas Service has been engaging with the Office of Public Works regarding how we respond to and prepare for whatever increase arises.”

With reporting by Christina Finn

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