Certain ‘absolutely massive’ Irish election areas should be reduced

Vital to have electoral boundaries reflecting ‘communities people live in’ – Varadkar

 

Some local election areas should be reduced in advance of the next local elections in 2019, both Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy have said, though local boundaries will not be a matter for politicians to decide.

The pair were speaking at the opening of social housing units in West Dublin this morning following reports the Independent Alliance was opposed to changes in the size of local election areas as it would likely mean fewer independent candidates being elected.

Some election areas were “absolutely massive”, Mr Murphy said, making it “impossible” for councillors to adequately represent their constituents.

The Government would examine recommending smaller areas, but he had not discussed the concerns of the Independent Alliance with its Ministers. He stressed the decisions about exact boundaries would be made by an independent commission, not by politicians.

Smaller local election areas are generally reckoned to suit the larger parties, whereas larger areas, with a greater number of councillors elected, make it easier for smaller parties and independent candidates to be elected.

Some election areas are “absolutely massive”, Minister for Housing Eoghan has said, making it “impossible” for councillors to adequately represent constituents. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times
Some election areas are “absolutely massive”, Minister for Housing Eoghan has said, making it “impossible” for councillors to adequately represent constituents. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

The Taoiseach said that during the last government, the areas had been increased to suit the Labour Party. “The reason we had a big increase in the number of eight-seaters and nine-seaters and 10-seaters five years ago was very much at the behest of the Labour Party, who believed in doing so at the time that they would help more Labour councillors to hold their seats,” Mr Varadkar said. “That actually didn’t happen.”

Mr Varadkar said he was “very much of the view that when it comes to deciding the terms of reference of this commission, it shouldn’t be what’s good for Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael or the Independent Alliance or anyone else”.

Reflecting communities

He said: “What’s important is that we have local electoral boundaries that reflect the communities that people live in. And we do have some around the country that are just too big – that are half a county for example – and that doesn’t make any sense.”

On reports that Independent Alliance Ministers intended to travel to North Korea on a peace mission, Mr Varadkar said: “There isn’t going to be a Government mission to North Korea, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs has been very clear on that.

“But I’m certainly not the keeper of any of my Ministers, so if they wish to travel to North Korea, I’m not going to be sending anyone to stop them at the airport. But it certainly won’t be a Government mission.”