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SF TD calls for Constituency Commission recommendations to be rejected

21 October, 2004

Speaking during an Adjournment Debate in the Dáil tonight Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment and Local Government, Arthur Morgan TD called on the Government to reject the latest Constituency Commission report saying if implemented it would dilute "the proportionality of our electoral system". The County Louth TD said the proliferation of three seat constituencies was a "subtle form of tullymandering" which would result in the loss of the respect of the electorate.

Deputy Morgan said, "The recommendations in the constituency commissions report take this State further down the road of diluting the proportionality of our electoral system. This is most starkly illustrated by the decision to divide County Leitrim between the two proposed new constituencies of Sligo/North Leitrim and Roscommon/South Leitrim, but it is part of a much more fundamental problem.

"For the third consecutive commission, the number of five-seat constituencies, has been cut, while the number of three-seat constituencies grows steadily.

"Do the people of Finglas in 3 seat Dublin North-West have the same opportunity for putting their chosen party or representative into Leinster House as the people in leafy Dundrum in 5 seat Dublin South? Is it merely a coincidence that there is a proliferation of 3 seat constituencies north of the Liffey

whereas larger constituencies are more common south of the Liffey? Will the people of Leitrim have any chance of ever electing another representative from the county to the Dáil? Is the legislation restricting constituency size to three, four and five seaters a deliberate attempt by the establishment to keep the marginalised marginalised? Perhaps this would be best described as a more subtle form of tullymandering which is being implemented over a longer time-frame.

"Though I expect the Government to dismiss concerns being raised by referring to the independent nature of the commissions this is not good enough. The essential problem is that the commission is constrained by legislative act to have constituency sizes between three and five seats.

"The proportionality possible under the PRSTV system in place in this state has been diluted substantially through the selective redrawing of constituency boundaries and the reduction in constituency size in terms of members elected from nine and seven seat constituencies of the 1920's when the system was instigated to today's five, four and three seaters.

"Proportional Representation with a Single Transferable Vote (PRSTV) using multi seat constituencies is a unique system and practiced hardly at all outside of Ireland. It was not designed with the intention of applying it to three seat constituencies. The number of members returned per constituency is a crucial component of the Irish electoral system. The higher the number of members returned per constituency the greater the proportionality of the system

"I am asking the Minister to amend Section 6(2)(b) of the Electoral Act of 1997 to allow for the formation of six and seven seat constituencies. This would restore the positive attributes of the PRSTV system, in terms of local accountable representatives and voters being able to make inter and intra party choices. I would ask him, as a member elected in a five-seat constituency, if he accepts that the larger constituency size adds the quality of extra proportionality to the electoral system as a whole?

"Specifically I would ask the Minister considering the importance of maintaining the integrity of county boundaries to reconvene the Constituency Commission, after introducing the aforementioned legislative changes, to consider the possibility of establishing one six seat constituency comprising the three counties of Sligo, Leitrim and Roscommon. The Government needs to recognise that we risk losing the respect of the people in places such as Leitrim for the electoral system when it is seen to be unfairly applied in way which prevents them from electing their chosen representative to parliament." ENDS

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