Census highlights TD underrepresentation

Simon Coveney

New census data has found that 25 constituencies are constitutionally under-represented.

The news has prompted housing and local planning minister Simon Coveney to order a constituency commission to study the constituency boundaries for Dáil and European elections.

The latest population count finds that 4,757,976 people are represented by a total of 158 TDs - meaning each TD on average, is currently responsible for 30,114 constituents.

“Clearly there will have to be at least more TDs to bring us back under 30,000,” said Deirdre Cullen, senior official with the Central Statistics Office.

The constituency with the largest ratio of residents to TDs is Dublin North-West with 32,299. Dublin Central has 32,016 persons per TD and Dublin Rathdown has 31,375.

However, Limerick County has a TD for every 27,916 residents.

The fastest growing constituency is Dublin Fingal which saw its population increase by 10,596 over five years, with Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s Mayo constituency one of just four to witness a fall in their population.

Borders of constituencies were redrawn earlier this year, ahead of the election, however it is likely that boundaries are to be reset again.

Ms Cullen said the CSO would be handing over data to the commission – but ultimately the decisions would be based on the final Census report.

Ms Cullen said: “They proceed with that work. It typically takes them about a year, once they get the definitive results next March.

“The definitive results will be very, very close to the preliminary results. They’ll sign off on that work and it’s up to the Dáil then to accept those figures.

“To have the whole state over the 30,000 limit is a new situation.”

The Clerk of the Dáil, Peter Finnegan, the Clerk of the Seanad, Deirdre Lane, the Ombudsman, Peter Tyndall and the Secretary General of the Department of Environment, John McCarthy, will make up the commission which will be chaired by Chief Justice Robert Haughton.

They must publish findings in a  report to the Dáil no later than three months after the final figures are published by the CSO.