Monday 20 November 2017

TDs under pressure as Kenny backs radical redraw of political map

Michael Brennan and Fionnan Sheahan

THREE Fine Gael TDs were last night weighing up a move to new constituencies to save their political careers -- as Taoiseach Enda Kenny's political reform plan backfired on his own party.

And he is going to lose a Fine Gael seat in his home patch of Mayo, which is dropping from five to four seats.

The number of TDs will be cut by eight from 166 to 158 as part of a dramatic redraw of the political map. And the number of constituencies is dropping from 43 to 40.

Mr Kenny said last night that there were radical changes in the report -- and his own constituency was affected as much as any other. "This is a completely independent report -- at least nobody can say there was any attempt at gerrymandering here," he said.

But having promised to cut the number of TDs by 20 in last year's general election, it is now Fine Gael which is bearing the brunt of the changes.

Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer lost his voting base in Bishopstown in Cork, where he chaired the GAA club, and Glasheen, where his constituency office is located.

And his position was worsened by the reduction of seats in Cork South Central from five to four. He said last night that he had not made a decision about moving to Cork North Central.

Dilemma

"I'm losing 1,400 votes. We'll be looking at it over the next couple of days," he said.

Fine Gael Galway East TD Paul Connaughton is also in a dilemma because the redraw has carved up his stronghold around his home town of Mountbellew. If he moves to the new Galway-Roscommon constituency, he will not be able to vote for himself and if he stays where he is, his family will not be able to vote for him.

"The next election is a long way away and I certainly will be making no decision until closer to that time," he said.

Fine Gael Dublin Central TD Paschal Donohoe was hit severely by loss of voters in the Navan Road, Ashtown and Drumcondra to other constituencies -- and by the reduction in seats from four to three.

He did not want to comment on where he would run at the next general election, but said he would continue to represent the people who elected him.

Mr Kenny said that his government had given a commitment to reduce the size of the Oireachtas -- and pledged to implement the "radical changes".

"People never like to see changes, I suppose, but the people are always right in the end, and they elect who they wish," he said.

Given the reduction in the number of TDs in Mayo, there is growing internal party pressure on Fine Gael TD John O'Mahony to consider running in the European elections in the North West constituency in 2014. But he would have to defeat sitting Fine Gael MEP Jim Higgins at a selection convention to do this.

The Constituency Commission report published yesterday will lead to substantial changes to a wide range of Dail constituencies.

Kerry, Tipperary and Donegal are each being merged into five seaters, leading to the loss of a seat in each county.

And Dublin South is being dramatically reduced from a five seater to a three seater, now called Dublin Rathdown.

Controversial

The most controversial boundary issue addressed by the commission was in the new Sligo-Leitrim constituency, where North and South Leitrim will be be reunited into one constituency.

It will also take in around 13,000 voters from West Cavan and around 8,800 voters from Donegal.

Around 10,000 voters in South Mayo are going to be casting their ballots in Galway West in the next election.

Another 20,500 Galway East voters are moving to the new Galway-Roscommon constituency. And almost 11,000 voters in North Tipperary are being moved to Offaly.

However 13,500 voters in West Limerick who were lumped into the Kerry North constituency are now back in their own county.

Irish Independent

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