Small constituencies a gerrymander - SF
Small constituencies a gerrymander - SF

Sinn Féin has warned that proportional representation is being diluted by small constituencies in the 26 Counties.

Arthur Morgan TD suggested that the current legislation for three, four and five-seat constituencies “is a deliberate attempt by the establishment to keep the marginalised, marginalised”.

He asked if it was “merely a coincidence that there is a proliferation of three-seat constituencies north of the Liffey, whereas the larger constituencies are more common south of the Liffey.

“Do the people of Finglas in three-seat Dublin North-West have the same opportunity for putting their chosen party or representative into Leinster House as the people in leafy Dundrum in Dublin South, a five-seat constituency?”

He also asked “will the people of Leitrim have any chance of ever electing another representative from the county to the Dail”.

He added that “we risk losing people’s respect for the electoral system in places such as County Leitrim, when it is seen to be unfairly applied in ways that prevent them from electing their chosen representative”.

Mr Morgan suggested that the current legislation and proposed changes were a more subtle form of “Tullymandering”, a reference to the redrawing of constituencies in the 1970s by then minister for local government, Mr Jim Tully, in an attempt to have the outgoing Fine Gael/Labour coalition re-elected.

The Government this week accepted recommendations from the independent Constituency Commission and will introduce legislation to give them effect.

The number of five-seat constituencies have been cut and three-seaters are growing steadily.

The report of the commission mirrors the wishes of the largest parties in the 26 Counties and is constrained by legislation to have constituencies consisting of between three and five seats.

Mr Morgan said that the proportionality possible had been diluted from the nine and seven-seater constituencies in the 1920s.

The proportional representation multi-seat constituency “is a unique system that is not much practised outside of Ireland. It was not designed with the intention of applying it to three-seat constituencies”.

It was important to maintain the integrity of county boundaries and he criticised the plan to divide County Leitrim into Sligo-North Leitrim and Roscommon-South Leitrim.

He called for the legislation to be amended and the commission to be reconvened to consider introducing a six-seat constituency comprising Sligo, Leitrim and Roscommon.

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