Constituency Commission

PaulConnaughton-2-150x150

Thank you for the opportunity to speak on this Bill.

At the outset of my contribution, I would clearly like to state that I am one of the TDs most affected by this current review of constituency boundaries.

I am very disappointed that the current review has only recommended a reduction in the number of TDs by eight and I believe that much deeper reform is needed in this area in coming years. With a small workforce, the governing bodies in this country need to be as lean as possible and I believe that the reduction of eight TDs did not go far enough.

I note that the Commission Report states that one of the tasks facing the Commission was to avoid as far as possible breaches of county boundaries, and in terms of Galway East, it would seem that it has not followed through on its remit.

A huge swathe of east Galway has been removed for electoral purposes and placed with Roscommon. I believe that the social and cultural ties needed to ensure a cohesive constituency are not present. People in Dunmore North, Caltra or Kylemore won’t be aware of the major political issues of the day in Roscommon and I believe will continue to identify with east Galway, adding to confusion.

Only nine out of the 33 DEDs now moved in with County Roscommon were previously part of a Roscommon East Galway constituency, but the newly created Roscommon Galway Constituency has ensured that a huge portion of East Galway will be cut off from what has always been its natural place in east Galway.

For example, placing Castleblakeney or Clontuskert in with areas such as Ballyfarnon and Ballaghaderreen simply makes no sense. A number of towns have also been carved in two by the current review, such as Dunmore, Clonberne, Kilkerrin and Mountbellew.

For people in north east Galway, there will be huge confusion for at least 12 years as to which constituency they are voting in, especially in areas around Kilconnell, Killimor, Aughrim and Laurencetown.

Over 20,000 voters have been moved into a constituency that they have little natural affinity with and there is a very real threat that after the next election, these 20,000 people will be left without a representative from the area, as the three sitting members in the area are natives of Boyle, Castlerea and Drum in south Roscommon.

The portion of east Galway that now finds itself at the very limit of the constituency is also somewhat left out on a limb, places like Clonfert, Eyrecourt, Kiltormer and Garrafrauns, as their communities are now split between two constituencies and two sets of representatives, reducing their capacity to be heard as they lobby for local services.

It appears that a wish to reunite Leitrim for electoral purposes has resulted in the carving up of Galway East, and while there are politicians in the newly created Roscommon Galway that will welcome this move, few householders in Galway East will, I believe, want to be joined in political terms with Roscommon.

Real reform of the political system is what is needed, to create a much leaner system of Government suited to the needs of Ireland in the current financial climate. The reduction of eight TDs is a small step in the right direction but the cuts need to go much deeper if real reform is to be achieved.

Of course Government at every level needs to be examined, from the number of TDs to the cost of each TD to the country, the role of the Seanad is currently under review, but this examination must extend to every level of Government, both national and local, to ensure that this nation of just four and a half million people is governed in the leanest way possible, to ensure the viability of the nation’s finances now and into the future.

The issue of achieving gender equality in the Oireachtas is another issue that deserves some consideration. I believe that there are measures that can and should be taken in terms of ensuring greater gender equality in the Dáil, but I don’t believe that gender quotas are the way forward.

Jobs should be awarded on merit and that should apply across the board. Women should be encouraged to enter politics, by ensuring that the proper supports are available and that any barriers to women entering the political arena are removed. The imposition of gender quotas will not, I believe, further the cause of women entering politics. Rather it will simply improve the optics, by having a greater number of women candidates, but the real test will the number elected and thus I believe that the imposition of gender quotas will only serve to undermine much of the progress made to date on this issue.

In conclusion, I believe that this is a small step in the right direction. However, huge work remains to be done to ensure that Ireland has the type and extent of government that befits a nation of just 4.5 million people, while at the same time ensuring that those people are properly listened to by their public representatives, giving us a legislature and legislation that properly reflects Ireland in the 21st century.