Constituency Commission

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The Constituency Commission (Irish: An Coimisiún um Thoghlaigh) is an independent commission in Ireland, which advises on redrawing of constituency boundaries for election of members to Dáil Éireann (the lower house of the Oireachtas, the national parliament) and the European Parliament. Each commission comes into being after the census, submits a non-binding report to the Oireachtas, and is dissolved. A separate but similar Local Electoral Area Boundary Committee fulfils the same function for Local Electoral Area boundaries.

History[edit]

Constituency revision is effected by an act of the Oireachtas (parliament) which enumerates the areas included within each constituency.[1] Historically the act was drafted by the government of the day to favour its own party or parties, leading to allegations of gerrymandering by the opposition.[1] The Electoral (Amendment) Act 1959 was struck out in 1961 by the Supreme Court as being repugnant to the Constitution of Ireland because of excessive malapportionment. The hastily enacted replacement, the Electoral (Amendment) Act 1961, relied instead on manipulating district size[fn 1]; the Electoral (Amendment) Act 1974 attempted to do the same, but backfired when a larger-than-anticipated swing resulted in a landslide for the opposition in the 1977 general election.[1] The incoming Taoiseach Jack Lynch promised that future boundary revisions take account of recommendations from an independent commission. Such commissions operated on an ad-hoc basis, beginning with the 1977 European constituency commission whose report was used for the 1979 election.[3] The first Dáil commission's report informed the Electoral (Amendment) Act 1980.[4] The adhoc system was superseded when the Electoral Act, 1997 placed the Constituency Commission on a statutory footing with fixed terms of reference.[5] The Electoral Commission envisaged by the current Irish government may subsume both the Constituency Commission and the Local Electoral Area Boundary Commission.[6]

Composition[edit]

The 1997 Act provides that the Chairman of the commission will be a judge of the Supreme Court or High Court. The other members of the commission are the Clerk of the Dáil, the Clerk of the Seanad, the Ombudsman, and the Secretary General of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. The members of the most recent commission were:

Name Role / Office
John Cooke Chairman and High Court judge
Geraldine Tallon Secretary General of the Department of the
Environment, Community and Local Government
Emily O'Reilly Ombudsman
Kieran Coughlan Clerk of the Dáil
Deirdre Lane Clerk of the Seanad

The offices of the commission are in The Custom House, Dublin.

Terms of reference[edit]

In relation to Dáil constituencies, the commission is required, in observing the relevant provisions of the Constitution of Ireland, to have regard to the following:

  • The total number of members of the Dáil, subject to Article 16.2.2 of the Constitution, shall be not less than 153 and not more than 160.
  • Each constituency shall return three, four or five members.
  • The breaching of county boundaries shall be avoided as far as practicable.
  • Each constituency shall be composed of contiguous areas.
  • There shall be regard to geographic considerations including significant physical features and the extent of and the density of population in each constituency.
  • The commission shall endeavour to maintain continuity in relation to the arrangement of constituencies.

The commission invites written submissions in relation to both Dáil and European Parliament constituencies from the general public and from each member of the Dáil and Seanad, and the members of the European Parliament from Ireland, registered political parties and Returning officers/County registrars.[7]

The commission presents its report to the Chairman of the Dáil (Ceann Comhairle). The final determination of the constituencies for Dáil Éireann and the European Parliament is a matter for the Oireachtas to prescribe in legislation, as the commission's role is advisory.

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Where the Fianna Fáil party of the then government had less than 50% support, four-seat constituencies were used, so that Fianna Fáil would win two of four seats; where it had more than 50% support, three- or five-seat constituencies would give it two of three, or three of five.[1][2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Parker, A. J. (1986). "Geography and the Irish Electoral System". Irish Geography. 19 (1): 1–14. doi:10.1080/00750778609478835. ISSN 0075-0778. 
  2. ^ Harrop, Martin; Miller, William Lockley (1987). Elections and voters: a comparative introduction. Macmillan Education. p. 65. ISBN 9780333347607. 
  3. ^ European Assembly Constituency Commission (4 October 1977). Report (PDF). Official publications. Prl.6626. Dublin: Stationery Office. 
  4. ^ "Electoral (Amendment) Bill, 1980: Second stage.". Dáil Éireann debates. 17 June 1980. Retrieved 2 May 2015. 
  5. ^ "Electoral Act, 1997". Office of the Attorney General of Ireland. Retrieved 7 December 2008. 
  6. ^ "Consultation Paper on the Establishment of an Electoral Commission in Ireland" (PDF). Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (DECLG). 27 January 2015. Retrieved 28 April 2015. 
  7. ^ Carty, R. K. (October 2006). "Electoral Boundary Determination in Single Transferable Vote Electoral Systems: the case of Ireland and Scotland". British Columbia Electoral Boundaries Commission. Retrieved 9 October 2008. 

External links[edit]