Friday 19 October 2018

Fingal set for big boundary change at local elections

John Manning

The electoral face of Fingal is set for dramatic changes for the local elections in 2019 with the likely creation of at least two brand new electoral areas and Swords councillors in particular, are getting ready to fight any attempt to split the town in two.

Swords was once disastrously split across two national constituency boundaries for one election cycle before returning to the old Dublin North and now Dublin Fingal constituency in its entirety and now the Fingal capital could face a split again as local election boundaries are redrawn by a newly established committee.

It is a numbers game ultimately and under the terms of reference of the new committee, no electoral area can have more than seven sitting councillors but the overall number of councillors on Fingal County Council will not change.

That means the Balbriggan electoral area will have to be reduced by one councillor, the Howth/Malahide electoral area will have to be reduced by a single councillor but Swords will have to lose two council seats. Over in Dublin 15, the existing two electoral areas have seven and eight seats respectively and will therefore lose at least one seat.

In order to keep the same number of county councillors, that means the creation of at least one or two brand new electoral areas.

That will not be achieved by splitting Swords in two, according to two sitting councillors in the area.

Cllr Duncan Smith (Lab) said he is '100% against' any electoral split in Swords or in any other of our major towns. He said that speculation is rife as to what the outcome of the process might be but all that is sure is that there will be changes.

One member of the committee who will decide the fate of Fingal's electoral area boundaries is a former acting chief executive of Fingal County Council, Peter Caulfield and Cllr Smith hopes his 'knowledge of Fingal, it's history and how it operates' will help the committee arrive at the sensible solution.

Sharing that hope is Cllr Darragh Butler (FF) who has fought the electoral splitting of Swords at both national constituency level and local electoral area level for many years. He remains implacably opposed to splitting the county town but acknowledged that this is one of the theories being speculated on in political circles as politicians try to predict and prepare for the outcome of the committee's deliberations.

Cllr Butler said that dividing up Swords again would be 'absolutely crazy' and he said that the town's hinterland of St Margaret's and Rolestown must remain in the Swords electoral area too. So where else could the changes fall? Well, Cllr Butler (FF) said he would prefer to see no change at all but given the terms of reference of the committee. some change is inevitable.

He said that one of the theories being put forward is that Donabate and Portrane might move to the Balbriggan electoral area which would then be subdivided in two, with one area encompassing Balbriggan, Balrothery and Skerries while the other takes in Rush, Lusk, Donabate and Portrane, which all surround the Rogerstown Estuary.

A further subdivision of Dublin 15, making three electoral areas where there is currently two, is also a possibility, he said.

Cllr Butler said he was 'hopeful that any redraw of the boundaries will be sensible and that all or our large towns will be kept in tact'.

Fingal Independent