Smaller parties to be squeezed by constituency changes as Dáil grows by 14 TDs

Electoral Commission: Bigger parties, especially Sinn Féin, are likely to be happier with plans published

The next general election, which must be held by March 2025, will see a larger Dáil with 14 more TDs but new boundaries are set to squeeze the smaller parties in many constituencies.

Political parties were last night still digesting the results of the proposed boundary revisions published by the Electoral Commission yesterday, but sources across the spectrum agreed that the bigger parties, especially Sinn Féin, were likely to be happier with the changes.

Population increases mean that the next Dáil will have 174 members, up from 160 at present, elected from 43 constituencies, an increase of four. There are four additional three-seat constituencies, two fewer four-seaters and two more five-seaters. In general, three-seat constituencies tend to make it harder for the small parties to win seats.

The commission, which is an independent body established by statute, said that it had worked to minimise disruption to the existing constituencies and sought to respect county boundaries as much as possible, though there was surprise at the announcement of the new constituency of Wicklow-Wexford, which will include the adjoining parts of both counties.


Some five seat constituencies – including Wexford, Tipperary, Fingal and Laois-Offaly – were divided into two, but others like Kerry, Donegal, Carlow-Kilkenny and Cavan-Monaghan remain intact. Extra seats to make five-seaters were added in Longford-Westmeath, Mayo, Kildare North, Dublin Mid-West, Dublin West and both Cork city constituencies.

Smaller parties including Labour, the Green Party and the Social Democrats will face battles in many constituencies to hold their seats in the face of significantly increased support for Sinn Féin.

Cork East Labour TD Seán Sherlock must now consider whether to move constituency as his home base of Mallow has moved into Cork North Central. Sinn Féin TD John Brady said the review was a “hatchet job on Wicklow”, and its existing five TDs must now compete for four seats. People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy criticised moving the Fettercairn area out of his constituency and into Dublin Mid-West.

Constituency Review 2023

The commission decided to increase the permissible variance from the average number of voters each TD represents – now 29,593 – from plus or minus 5 per cent in the existing constituencies to plus or minus 8 per cent. In effect this means a greater divergence between the average number of voters represented by TDs in different constituencies.

Officials defended the move yesterday, saying the decision was made to preserve the existing constituencies as much as possible. A smaller permitted divergence, or a greater number of TDs, would have resulted in several more three-seat constituencies and a greater number of constituencies in total, they said.

Dublin – Recommended
Dáil constituencies

Chairwoman of the Electoral Commission, Supreme Court judge Ms Justice Marie Baker, said it was not possible to use the constituency review to “future-proof” Dáil numbers in line with Ireland’s expected population growth.

She said one reason is that the commission could not predict where future population growth would occur.

The Constitution stipulates that there must be one TD for every 20,000 and 30,000 people overall, and a referendum would be required to change this and introduce new limits.

Ms Justice Baker confirmed that the commission is to start researching the issue of representation and how the number of TDs is determined.

She said any change to the representation limit would require constitutional change and it is something the commission “intend to start a discussion about immediately”.

Ms Justice Baker also said that the commission intended to research the question of constituencies which could have more than five seats, a limit set by law, and which could be changed by the Oireachtas.

Despite the Green Party favouring such a move, the Government decided against introducing six-seater or larger constituencies when setting the commission’s terms of reference for the review.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times