Political parties at odds over size of next Dáíl with left wing parties calling for six-seater constituencies

Submissions by political parties to Electoral Commission show marked differences over how many seats Dáil should have

There are marked differences of opinion between political parties on the size of the next Dáil, according to submissions they have made to the Electoral Commission.

In addition, all of the parties on the left have called for legislation to allow for the establishment of six-seat constituencies in the State.

The Commission had invited submissions on how it should redraw the 39 constituencies later this summer. Given the population increase, the Government has asked the Commission to recommend a Dáil that will have between 171 and 181 seats. That involves a minimum of 11 extra seats compared to the current Dáil.

In its written submission on Wednesday, Fine Gael cautioned the Commission against adding an extra 20 or 21 seats, saying it should consider the middle rang of additional seats.


“It is our view that if the Commission were to create more than 178 seats, the extra seats allocated at that level would be likely to give rise to even more boundary breaches in a range of counties. We therefore consider the middle to lower upper end of your range is the most appropriate outcome.”

Fine Gael has argued that with a mid-range change, all but two of the eight constituencies that spill over into neighbouring counties would have a resolution. It is of the view that it would be difficult to achieve for Roscommon-Galway and for Sligo-Leitrim unless a very big variance of population was allowed between constituencies.

Fine Gael pointed out that figures showed that in 75 per cent of cases, turnout in the displaced area of a county was lower than in the county to which the area was attached.

By contrast, Labour, in its submission, has argued for an additional 20 seats which it said would add certainty for the next decade with population growth.

The party also said its preference would be for six-seater constituencies.

“After all, if a proliferation of three-seaters produces a skewed result that would be considered improper if it was engineered by party politicians, then surely it would still be improper even if it was independently designed. The outcome remains open to criticism, with or without an ulterior motive,” its submission has said.

In a short submission, Sinn Féin expressed no views on its desired overall number of seats or how constituencies should be divided. It argued instead to limit the number of three-seat constituencies, and introduce six-seat constituencies.

Like Fine Gael, Sinn Féin is also of the view that the population variance between constituencies should be exceeded to allow adherence to country borders, and other natural boundaries.

Fianna Fáil, in its submission, has called for minimal breaches of county boundaries.

It suggests the overall seat number should be set at a higher level to minimise small parts of counties being placed into other counties in order to rightsize a constituency.

“Public support for boundaries, and the maximising of civic engagement, can rest on limiting the splitting of natural communities,” it has stated.

“Given the scale of population increases, this review may well involve the most significant boundary changes in many years,” it has added.

Like other smaller parties the Green Party has argued for six-party constituencies in its submission, even thought they are not possible.

“Due to the prohibition of 6 seat constituencies under current rules, it is our belief that the Commission will face very significant difficulties in completing the work of expanding the current Dáil by between 11 and 21 seats. This will necessitate the breaking up of some existing 5 seat constituencies, most likely into separate 3 seat constituencies.

“This will create a proliferation of smaller constituencies, breaking up local authority areas that have previously been coherently represented in single Dáil constituencies. This will likely result in considerable political disquiet.”

In its submission People Before Profit called for legislation to allow six-seater constituencies. It also called for all Dublin constituencies to have a minimum of four seats, with at least half of the constituencies in the capital having five seats (there are three five-seat constituencies in Dublin at present).

The majority of submissions on the European constituencies have argued that if Ireland gets an additional seat it should go to the Midlands North West constituency, adding Laois and Offaly to the constituency, making it a five-seater.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times