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Census Results Presents Constitutional Problems

Following the publication of the Preliminary Results of Census 2016, political reform activist & Green Party candidate for Cork North Central, Oliver Moran, has called on the Government to set out how it intends to respond to the consequences of the Census 2016 for Dáil constituencies.

The figures released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) showed that the Irish Population is now 4,757,976, an increase of 169,727 since Census 2011. This rise in population shown by the census means the number of people per TD now exceeds the limit set out in Article 16.2.2 of the Constitution of no more 1 TD per 30,000 people. The CSO firgures confirm that more than 60% of Dáil constituencies in the state are now beyond this limit. This includes Cork North Central (31,175 per TD), Cork South Central (30,503) and Cork East (30,317)

Mr Moran said that, in his opinion, the issue needs to be addressed before an election can be called. Otherwise, he said, the result of an election would be open to constitutional challenge.

Speaking late last week, Mr Moran explained:

“This is the direct consequence of the short-sighted decision of the last government to pare down the number of TDs to the minimum allowed under the constitution. Now, 25 out of 40 constituencies have fewer TDs per population than is allowed.”

“The Government can respond in one of two ways. They can dramatically redraw constituencies in the affected regions or they can increase the number of TDs in the affected constituencies. Here in Cork, that would mean making five-seaters out of Cork North Central, Cork South Central and Cork East.”

The final decision on the number of constituencies will be decided by the Constituency Commission, which is expected to be formed in the coming months. The smallest increase possible is an increase of one seat, to bring it to a total of 159 and to bring the national ratio of ‘TDs to population’ down under the constitutional limit. Some, including the Green Party, will be hoping for a more substantial increase, including possibly increasing the number of seats to 166, the number of seats prior to the 2011 General Election.

For more information on the Preliminary Census 2016 Results visit the CSO website.

After this article was written a ‘Ministerial Order’ signed by Minister Simon Coveney has set the limit of TDs for the New Dáil at 160 seats.