Agreement reached on reduction of local electoral seats

Fine Gael and Independents reach compromise to create between five- and seven-seaters

Minister for Local Government Eoghan Murphy:  will bring a memorandum to Tuesday morning’s Cabinet meeting with proposed terms of reference to set up a local government boundaries committee. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Minister for Local Government Eoghan Murphy: will bring a memorandum to Tuesday morning’s Cabinet meeting with proposed terms of reference to set up a local government boundaries committee. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

The Cabinet is to agree to reduce the number of seats in local electoral constituencies after a compromise was reached between Fine Gael and the Independent Alliance.

Minister for Local Government Eoghan Murphy and Minister of State John Paul Phelan are to bring a memorandum to Tuesday morning’s meeting with proposed terms of reference to set up a local government boundaries committee.

It will set the number of councillors and the size of electoral areas for the 2019 local elections.

Fine Gael had sought to reduce the local electoral areas dramatically, but such measures were resisted by the Independent Alliance.

The Irish Times understands the two Government parties have reached an agreement and there will now be a compromise of between five- and seven-seaters in local electoral areas.

Some exceptions will be made for geographically isolated areas where there will be three-seater areas.

The alliance had feared that reducing the size of electoral areas would adversely affect Independent councillors and those representing smaller parties, while giving a disproportionate benefit to the biggest parties.

‘Shouting match’

An internal meeting held last month involving representatives from Fine Gael and the Independent Alliance descended into what sources described as a “shouting match” between the camps on the issue.

Government sources insisted there was “peace” on the matter and it is expected to pass Cabinet today.

Before 2013, most electoral areas had between three and seven seats. After the changes proposed by Labour, that was increased from six to 10.

The majority of local electoral areas elected six councillors (66); there were 23 seven-seaters; 23 eight-seaters; 13 with nine seats and six with 10.

The net effect of the changes was that there was a “bounce” of representation for smaller parties and for Independents. Despite the move being designed to assist Labour, it lost a large number of seats in the 2014 elections.

Elsewhere, Minister for Children Katherine Zappone is to update Cabinet this morning on the recommendations of the expert technical group examining the site of the former mother-and-baby home at Tuam.

The group was established by the Minister after a significant number of human remains were found during archaeological work initiated last year for the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.

The report examines a number of options to appropriately respond to the discovery of human remains.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan will also bring a series of measures to Cabinet including an appointment to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.