Irish Republican News · January 9, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Government influence seen in constituency changes

Smaller parties and independents have expressed dismay at the report of the independent Constituency Commission, which has made proposals for changes to constituencies across the 26 Counties.

The creation of additional three-seat constituencies in Dublin, Meath, Roscommon, Sligo and Leitrim and the loss of five seat constituencies will favour the larger parties by raising the bar required to win representation in those areas.

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Environment and Local Government, Arthur Morgan TD was this evening highly critical of the move, which he described as ``a backward step''.

He said it would ``prevent the emergence of new voices in Irish politics, making the Dail even less representative that it currently is.''

The report was ``good news for the establishment parties and bad news for representative democracy''.

It is believed in particular that Joe Reilly, the party's candidate who narrowly failed to fill the last seat in the Meath constituency at the last general election, now faces an uphill struggle in either of the new Meath constituencies.

Another controversial change is the division of Leitrim into two, with the north of the county remaining with Sligo and South Leitrim now forming a new three-seat constituency with Roscommon.

The change, which has met with angry local reaction, raises the possibility that there will be no TD representing Leitrim after the next election. The proposal also represents a potential setback to former Sligo Alderman, Sinn Féin's Sean McManus.

The Constituency Commission, which was established by the Dublin government last year, has recommended more dramatic changes than had been expected, with almost two-thirds of Dail constituencies seeing changes in their boundaries or numbers of seats.

Under the Constitution the constituencies must be revised every 12 years to take into account population changes and since 1977 an independent Commission has carried out this task. The recommendations of five of the previous six Commissions have been enacted into law.


Meanwhile, a dispute has arisen in Fine Gael, the second largest political party in the 26 Counties, over a possible coalition with Sinn Féin.

Proposing a possible `rainbow' coalition involving the conservative Fine Gael party, left-wing Labour and Sinn Féin, Michael Ring, a Mayo TD, said this week he would enter into government in the 26 Counties with Sinn Féin.

In a radio interview, Mr Ring said politicians in the South could not say to Sinn Féin that it is fit to serve in government in North but not fit to do so in the South.

``If Sinn Féin continues to work the peace process and continues to work the democratic system in this country, I see no reason why they can't be in government.''

However, the Waterford TD, John Deasy strongly opposed this line of thought yesterday. ``I am saying never, not for as long as I am a Fine Gael TD...

``There should be no equivocation in my party about Sinn Féin. They represent people who are involved in criminal activity. They are aware of that, and they are not too worried about it.''

Last night, a spokesman for the party leader, Enda Kenny, said: ``Before the last general election, Fine Gael made it clear that it would not enter into talks with Sinn Féin as long as it had a military wing. That position has not changed. However, the matter could be reviewed in the future if there is a fundamental change in the status of Fine Gael.''

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© 2004 Irish Republican News