The Workers' Party has made the following submission to the Constituency Commission which has been tasked with reviewing Dáil constituencies in advance of the next general election.
The Workers Party welcomes the invitation from the Constituency Commission to submit proposals re the formation of constituencies for Dail Eireann. This submission will deal solely with Dail Eireann constituencies and we will make a separate submission on European Union constituencies.
At the outset we must express our serious concern at the imbalance which is reflected in recent eictions results when we compare various constituencies. Naturally we accept that it is impossible to have a uniform voter base for each constituency. Nevertheless given that there are certain rules pertaining to the number of voters to elect members of the Dail, a minimum of 20,000 and a maximum of 30,000 voters it surely must be possible to ensure that as far as is democraticaly possible each voter in all constituencies will be equal.
Let us make a number of observations in regard to this issue. There are 12 constituencies in the Dublin Region including Dun Laoghaire which elect a total of 47 Dail Deputies. Within the 12 constituencies there are glaring inconsistencies. We mention the fact that it takes 22,800 voters to elect a TD in Dun Laoghaire a 5 seat constituency and in Dublin North a 4 seat constituency it takes over 30,000 voters to elect a TD ands a similar situation applies in regards to Dublin West a 3 seat constituency where again it takes in excess of 30,000 voters to elect a TD.
When we examine the 3 seat constituencies of Kerry North and Kerry South we find it takes just over 23,000 voters to elect aTD. In Donegal North East and Donegal South West we find that in N/E it takes almost 25,5000 and in S/W it takes 23,7000 to elect a TD. On further examination we find that by having a five seat constituency in Kerry it would take just under 28,000 voters to elect a TD and with 5 seat constituency in Donegal it would take 29,450 voters to elect aTD.
It is evident that for far too long there has been a serious imbalance in the drawing of constituencies with rural voters being favoured over urban voters. We have no desire or wish to disenfranchise any voter whether they be in Kerry, Donegal, Dublin or wherever. What we do seek is equality of representation and as the instances quoted of Dun Laoghaire, in particular, this is grossly unequal. In this particular constituency we ask the question given the class character and make-up of the constituency is this imbalance by accident or design.
The practice in recent years of abolishing 5 seat constituencies in favour of 3 seat constituencies is bad for democracy. The essence of multi-seat constituencies with PR transferable voting is to guarantee that there is democratic representation across the political spectrum not alone in each constituency but in the country. The attempts over recent decades, and still voiced on occasions by anti-democratic elements, to abolish PR in elections and to adopt the British system of 1st Past the Post demonstrates that the moves towards 3 seat constituencies is the thin edge of the wedge designed to make it easier for larger parties to dominate the political scene.
We make the following proposals:
1. All constituencies must be fixed by natural boundaries, county borders, rivers etc.
2. No constituency should have less than 4 representatives and it should be the priority of a Constituency Commission to have 5 seat constituencies or indeed as in the past where population and constituency size allows to have 6 seater constituencies.
3. The breaking of natural bundaries must cease as for instance what occured in Dubin South Central where the Liffey River was crossed and part of Dublin North Central included in Dubin S/C. This was an outrageous and openly germander tactic designed to handicap some parties to the advantage of another. The scandal that is contained in the crazy situation where we have the people of Leitrim tossed from Billy to Jack must be stopped.
It is our view that unfortunately the Constituency Commission has very little credibility due to the actions of previous Commisions over the years. An opportunity presents itself now on this occasion to redress the injustices of past decisions and put forward proposals which are above all democratic and seen to be so.