Several TDs, including a Minister of State, have criticised the breaching of county boundaries when creating new constituencies for the 2016 general election.
The creation of the new Sligo-Leitrim constituency that takes in parts of south Donegal and east Cavan has attracted particularly severe criticism, as has the ceding of large areas of east Galway to the new constituency of Roscommon-Galway.The opinions are voiced in submissions received by the commission charged with revising constituency boundaries.
Sligo-based Fianna Fáil Deputy Marc MacSharry has made his submission to the Constituency Commission public.
The TD has put forward his idea of splitting Donegal into two constituencies with three TDs each as part of his submission relating to Counties Sligo, Leitrim, Donegal, Cavan & Monaghan.
He states, "The existing constituency incorporating County Sligo, County Leitrim, South County Donegal and West County Cavan serves to exasperate the alienation of rural Ireland and undermines the constitutional entitlement of equal representation of all citizens in a practical, workable and cohesive way in Dáil Eireann.
"The current arrangements are totally contrary to the literal and spirit of the terms of reference in particular section 1(c) of the Constituency Commission public notice where it states that ‘breaching of County Boundaries shall be avoided as far as practicable’.
"I would respectfully submit that sufficient practicable considerations were not applied in the division of Counties and therefore county boundaries were recklessly dissected rather than proactively and thoughtfully maintained."
He notes, "Section 1(d) of the Constituency Commission Public Notice states that “each constituency shall be composed of contiguous areas”. The composition of the current Sligo Leitrim South Donegal West Cavan constituency clearly stretches both the literal meaning and spirit of this term of reference. Bordering, adjoining, abutting and adjacent seem to denote the literal meaning of this term of reference however by any definition areas such as Gowna Co Cavan and Cashelard Co Donegal can hardly be considered ‘contiguous’ with Easkey Co Sligo or Drumsna Co Leitrim to give but one example. "
He believes each county ought to have a minimum of one TD representing their interests in Dáil Eireann. Deputy MacSharry submitted that the Constituency Commission recommend that two Donegal constituencies be created with Three TDs elected to each. Sligo Leitrim elect 4 TDs and Cavan Monaghan elect 5 TDs.
He said this would mean "County Boundaries are maintained and that all people in the reference areas will have representation in Dail Eireann consistent with the needs and challenges of these areas and the people’s constitutional right to have adequate voice for such needs and challenges within the formation of legislation and debate at national level. The reduction in representation in the North West region must not be allowed to continue as it undermines the very fabric of our nation and it’s cultural and socio-economic make up.
"If it is allowed to continue it will inevitably lead within a few decades to a totally disproportionate level of representation in larger urban centres which could not have been envisaged at the time the constitution was being written nor would it be in keeping with the explicit ambitions of the constitution when considered in its entirety."Deputy MacSharry had promised during his election campaign that he would fight to have both Cavan and Donegal returned to their full county constituencies.
Submissions must be received by the Commission by January 10, 2017.
However the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten has expressed satisfaction with the current arrangement.
He argues that his own constituency of Roscommon-Galway be allowed to “bed down”.
The new constituency was seen to have suited the Minister, who is based in south Roscommon, close to the border with Galway.
Many of the 64 submissions received by the commission contain harsh criticism of the breaching of the country boundary, reminding the commission that it is obliged to respect county boundaries where possible.