By Noel Dundon
County Tipperary is to lose a TD in the next General Election, as well as a substantial portion of North Tipperary and a smaller section of South Tipperary, following a Constituency Commission Review published this week.
Yes the political landscape of The Premier County will change substantially and will become a five seat consitituency as well as being unified at County Council level as the radical local government changes being introduced by Environment Minister Phil Hogan begin to hit home. More than 12,500 voters will be lost to Tipperary at both ends of the county which has been deemed too small to hold onto it’s six seat status - three in each constituency.
And, based on a turnout of 70% at the next election, candidates will need to reach an estimated quota of a whopping 14,000 votes to be sure of a place in the next Dail.
The Review says, “The population of the county of Tipperary exceeds that of a 5-seat constituency and is insufficient to form two 3-seat constituencies.The Commission considered a number of options for the area. One was to make minimal change with a small transfer of population between the existing Tipperary North and Tipperary South constituencies. However, in the light of the terms of reference the preferred option of the
Commission is to recommend changes to constituencies in the area focused on improving parity
of representation.The Commission accordingly recommends the following arrangement of constituencies for the area:
Two electoral divisions in county Waterford and parts of two others with a population of 1,597, currently allocated to the existing Tipperary South constituency, should be transferred to the Waterford constituency, which should remain as a 4-seat constituency. This ends the breach of the Waterford county boundary.
“Twenty-four electoral divisions, with a population of 10,953, in the north west of CountyTipperary should be transferred to the new Offaly constituency. The rest of County Tipperary should form a new 5-seat constituency. The county of Offaly combined with twenty-four electoral divisions from the north west of Tipperary should form a new 3-seat constituency.”
There has been much disgust in the Lower Ormond area over the review and the prediction is that there could be a very low turnout in the next General Election by way of protest at the fact that a substantial chunk of North Tipp will now be lost to Offaly.”
Deputy Michael Lowry, who stands to lose 2,130 first preference votes in the move having topped the poll in eight of the affected areas, told The Tipperary Star,” I have gotten a massive reaction from the people in Lower Ormond and Borrisokane. They are disgusted and dismayed at this and feel that they have been cut off and abandoned. There is a huge reluctance on their part now to get involved in the General Election and I predict a very low turnout as a result. They feel that they are the forgotten people. They are Tipp people through and through - they shout for Tipperary in hurling and football, but they won’t be allowed to vote in Tipp. They are very annoyed and agitated over this,” said Deputy Lowry who added that he is very distraught to be losing the area, not just from a political perspective, but from a personal viewpoint with many friends, colleagues and associates having been forged over a long period of time.
Describing it as “a massive task” for independents to reorganise their political base , Deputy Lowry stated that he would be at a decided disadvantage in comparison to party candidates who have established bases in both the North and South constituencies.
“It will be a massive undertaking and a daunting task. I cannot over emphasise how difficult it will be to form a new base. I have already discussed this with my councillors and will be discussing it with my organisation in the coming days,” said Deputy Lowry who, upon analysing the figures in great detail has predicted that Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail will take three of the seats, with the rest left to battle it out for the remaining seats. Under current conditions this would leave Deputies Lowry, Matty McGrath and either Noel Coonan or Tom Hayes fighting for the last two seats. However, there are likely to be other candidates in the field also with Sinn Fein for instance, likely to throw forward a name - possibly Cllr Seamie Morris. See P 6
Minister Alan Kelly said he was ‘furious’ with the boundary commission review which will cost him 1,154 first preference votes.
“It’s an independent process and a done deal now for the next five years, but if you ask me it doesn’t make any sense. I have been inundated with people calling me saying how annoyed they are. You get comments like “how can someone in Tullamore represent me” – and they are right. As far as I am concerned the county boundaries should be protected at all costs. This will affect all candidates and TDs to varying degrees and as someone who is based right beside the area affected it has a dramatic affect on me. I got very good support in that area during the last election and have worked hard for the area over the last year and a half as a Minister and TD. Take Borrisokane Day Care Centre for example which is being funded by thus Government. Also I have done a lot of work on roads, tourism around Lough Derg and sports and community facilities. Other TDs talk about the last election and how many votes they think they’ve lost and I’m the same, but I was working towards the next election and putting in a huge effort as it is an area close to where I from and now that won’t matter. It’s crazy to think that those living in Dromineer, Puckane, Borrisokane, Ballymackey or Kilruane for example won’t have a TD from the Tipperary constituency to represent them after the next election. On a personal level it hurts deeply that the area where former Labour TD Paddy Tierney came from and indeed Coolbawn, Kilbarron where part of my own family came from will no longer be in the constituency’.
Minister Kelly added, ‘While I’m disappointed with the outcome, I will continue to ensure the people in the area that is gone into Offaly will get good representation from me and my office. They helped put me where I am today and I would never take that for granted, rest assured. I will also do everything I can in the South Tipperary area now that it is one constituency. I represented the people of South Tipperary while in the European Parliament previously and I spent a lot of time working there.”
South Tipperary Fine Gael T.D. Tom Hayes also alluded to the big challenged facing candidates.
“The increased size of our constituency will be a huge challenge for us all, but I do think there needs to be a reduction in the amount of TD’s serving in Leinster House. Fine Gael campaigned on that principle and this report from the Constituency Commission will ensure we deliver on that. Between the reduction in TD’s and the proposed abolition of the Seanad the public will have an opportunity to implement some cost savings when it comes to our national politics. I do believe that to be a good thing” Deputy Hayes said.
Meanwhile Deputy Noel Coonan moved to reassure Borrisokane, Lower Ormond and South Offaly constituents that he will continue to represent their concerns.
“It is regrettable that we are losing such a large area of our constituency which I have enjoyed representing and where I have built up strong links and friendships. There is a huge population of more than 15,000 to be transferred to the new Offaly constituency,” said Deputy Coonan who pulled in 2,280 first preference votes form the area in the last election.
“There are approximately 4,000 people in the South Offaly area who will be returning home to the Offaly constituency and I will continue to look after them. They live on my doorstep in Roscrea and I was serving them before these changes and will continue to do so. In relation to the Borrisokane and the Lower Ormond area, there will be a population of 10,953 transferring to the Offaly constituency from my constituency and these people will be disadvantaged as they will now be voting in three different areas for local, national and European elections,” continued Deputy Coonan.
“It is a huge loss to me and it is going to be disillusioning for those 10,953 people who will be part of the greater Tipperary County Council when it comes to voting in local elections, part of Ireland South for European elections and part of Offaly when voting for their Dáil representative. These wide ranging changes present a serious challenge to a public representative such as myself but I have faced down serious obstacles over my many years in public life and I will take on this challenge also. I look forward to working in cooperation with my Offaly Fine Gael colleague Marcella Corcoran Kennedy TD in order to provide the people of that area with adequate representation. I am also looking forward to meeting with new constituents from South Tipperary and to the challenge of representing a larger area,” continued Deputy Coonan.
“We are committed to reforming politics and part of this process is reducing the number of TDs. The report published last week contained the Constituency Commission’s recommendations in relation to the election of members to the Dáil and European Parliament and the next step is for the preparation of a Bill to give statutory effect to the Commission’s recommendations,” Deputy Coonan added.