MEPs face uphill battle to retain seats

Vast new constituencies will present a big challenge to lesser-known candidates

A radical recasting of European Parliament constituencies will be made in advance of next year's election after a report from an independent Constituencies Committee.

The committee’s recommendation must be approved by the Oireachtas but this is seen as a foregone conclusion.

Dublin will remain a three-seater in the new dispensation, comprising the local administrative areas of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Fingal, South Dublin and the city of Dublin.

A new four-seat constituency, to be known as Midlands-North-West, will comprise counties: Cavan, Donegal, Galway, Kildare, Laois, Leitrim, Longford, Louth, Mayo, Meath, Monaghan, Offaly, Roscommon, Sligo and Westmeath; and Galway city.


A new four-seat "South" constituency will comprise: Carlow, Clare, Cork, Kerry, Kilkenny, Limerick, North Tipperary, South Tipperary, Waterford, Wexford and Wicklow; and the cities of Cork, Limerick and Waterford.

High profile
This redrawing of the electoral map with vast new constituencies will present a big challenge to lesser-known candidates but it will be to the advantage of personalities with a high national profile.

Fine Gael MEP Jim Higgins said he was confident that he and party colleague Mairéad McGuinness could take two seats in Midlands-North-West but was disappointed that the number of Irish seats was being reduced to 11 from 12.

MEPs in the current Ireland North-West constituency represented an average of 420,000 people at present, but counterparts in Malta represented only 44,000 on average as five is the minimum number of MEPs a country can have.

Ireland could end up with even fewer MEPs if further countries such as Serbia join the EU, he said.

Independent MEP Marian Harkin, who will contest the Midlands-North-West constituency, said the scale of the area, which stretches from Laois to Donegal and Louth to Mayo, would pose a challenge.

Independent candidates
She said campaign matters such as erecting posters would be difficult for Independent candidates as they did not have a party mechanism to assist them, adding that "high resources" would be required to get the message across.

“It will be interesting to see if people who are well-known in the media or elsewhere will see this as an opportunity,” she said.

“If I look back to when I started out there is no way I could do what I am now coming in as an Independent on my own resources. It has taken that candidate out of the equation.”

Labour MEP Phil Prendergast, who assumed a seat vacated by Minister of State Alan Kelly after a successful Dáil run, said the election would be a challenge but "it is a challenging time anyway".

The constituency committee was chaired by Mr Justice Cooke (Chairman). Other members included the former Clerk of the Dáil Kieran Coughlan, Clerk of the Seanad Deirdre Lane and chief of the Department of Environment Geraldine Tallon.

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times

Steven Carroll

Steven Carroll

Steven Carroll is an Assistant News Editor with The Irish Times