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Constitutional Bank Robbery

  • 06-04-2007 5:44am
    #1
    Registered Users Posts: 78,053 ✭✭✭✭ Victor


    So, in 2004, the government told us that Dáil constituencies wouldn't be revised until after the 2006 census.

    Then, when the provisional census figures came out last July, they said we would have to wait for the final figures and that the provisional figures would be inaccurate, etc.

    The final version of the Census (Principal Demographic Results) was published last week, largely in line with the provisional figures (largest constituency total error = 0.63%)

    Dick Roche, T.D., Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (responsible for elections) is now saying there is more final figures to come and indeed there are - for things like Housing, Occupations, Religion, etc. - which are none of Mr. Roche's business when it comes to setting out constituencies.

    So, short of the director of the CSO coming out and saying "Doh!" in a Homer-like tone, these figures are as final as they will be.
    Article 16
    2.2° The number of members shall from time to time be fixed by law, but the total number of members of Dáil Éireann shall not be fixed at less than one member for each thirty thousand of the population, or at more than one member for each twenty thousand of the population.

    3° The ratio between the number of members to be elected at any time for each constituency and the population of each constituency, as ascertained at the last preceding census, shall, so far as it is practicable, be the same throughout the country.
    The final figures (as did the provisional figures) show a huge variation in the population ratio. Dún Laoghaire has one TD per 22,833 population*, while Dublin North is at 30,077 and Dublin West is at 30,967 - both clearly over the constitutionally required figure. In fact, giving a whole seat each to Dublin North and Dublin West would still see Dún Laoghaire in a more favourable position.

    Now not only are Dublin North and Dublin West the worst off constituencies, but they are followed by the adjacent Meath East (29,063), Louth (27,817) and Meath West (27,723) and also Laoighis-Offaly (27,585). Nearly all over the under-represented constituencies are in one corner of the country (see map).

    In contrast, all the over-represented constituencies are also grouped - along the border, in Kerry-Limerick and in some of the nicer areas of Dublin.

    Now, Mr. Roche wants to set up a commission and sit around for months and in my opinion will breach the constitution and subject the election to all manner of appeal. By simply amending the existing electoral acts to change the number of TDs from 166 to 168 and adding one seat each to Dublin North and Dublin West would avoid that.

    However, I think there’s going to be a robbery.

    * Note it is the ratio of population that is directed in the Constitution, not adult population, registered voters or some other calculation.


Comments

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 3,699 InFront


    Is "or" in that article not in the context of a logical disjunction that says it can be either (a)one member per 30,000 or less or (b)more than one member for twenty thousand of the population as a whole unit (presuming that is satisfied?).
    The word "or" doesn't seem to be a clarification in that context, it's not like saying "I have one euro, or one hundred cents": it's providing an alternative arrangement.

    Having said that, I really hope you're right, I would love to see the Government with egg on their face over this:)


  • Registered Users Posts: 8,451 ✭✭✭ Time Magazine


    InFront wrote:
    Is "or" in that article not in the context of a logical disjunction that says it can be either (a)one member per 30,000 or less or (b)more than one member for twenty thousand of the population as a whole unit (presuming that is satisfied?).
    The word "or" doesn't seem to be a clarification in that context, it's not like saying "I have one euro, or one hundred cents": it's providing an alternative arrangement.
    I read it, and I think up until now everyone else has read it, as 20,000-30,000 per TD in each constituency. Some constituencies have more than 30,000 people per TD (Dublin North and Dublin West).

    In either case, a difference of 8,000 (Dun Laoghaire and Dublin North) is almost certainly outside of the acceptable margin or error.
    Having said that, I really hope you're right, I would love to see the Government with egg on their face over this:)
    I'm quite sure there will be.

    Excellent post, Victor.


  • Registered Users Posts: 6,315 ✭✭✭ ballooba


    Is it gerrymandering though? Is there a benefit for FF in the way the constituencies are drawn?

    My locality of Louth/Meath is definitely getting the short end of the stick.


  • Registered Users Posts: 42,735 ✭✭✭✭ K-9


    ballooba wrote:
    Is it gerrymandering though? Is there a benefit for FF in the way the constituencies are drawn?

    My locality of Louth/Meath is definitely getting the short end of the stick.

    Wouldn't say it's gerrymandering. Don't think it will benefit FF particularly. Though they where probably in no hurry to change Dun Laoghaire, 5 seats and no FG TD. Amazing. FF are going to lose seats anyway, 8-12 seems to be the accepted number internally.

    If it was gerrymandering maybe they would try and change it to benefit FF, as surely FG are going to gain a seat in a constituency that they should be strong in.

    Anyway, the last Govt. that seriously amended constituencies for Electoral benefit wasn't a FF Govt and it seriously went against them. Maybe leave things alone until after the election.


  • Registered Users Posts: 8,451 ✭✭✭ Time Magazine


    Seanies32 wrote:
    Anyway, the last Govt. that seriously amended constituencies for Electoral benefit wasn't a FF Govt and it seriously went against them. Maybe leave things alone until after the election.
    The problem with that is that in those constituencies with more than 30,000 people, you have a potential constitutional challenge to any result by any member of the public.

    It's potential to be a massive pain in the hole. Of course it makes feck all difference in reality, but there really should have been no chances taken. Shame on Dick Roche for not adding a couple of TDs where needed.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 1,492 upmeath


    I'm not standing by the Government in any way, in fact I'll openly say I want a change in government, but having studied the census results published last week, the most under-represented areas in the country (Fingal, Meath East and my own Meath West) are those with the youngest average population age and therefore despite soaring population numbers in these areas, quite a substantial portion of the populace in this area of the country is under the minimum voting age, moreso than in any other region. I know this doesn't justify misappropriation or lack of Dáil seats, or under-representation of the people, but it might give just a tiny little bit of credibility to the fact that constituencies which are only just under-represented aren't being allocated extra seats. Just a thought.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 2,033 Chakar


    Minister Dick Roche is acting on the legal advice of the Attorney General Rory Brady. The Boundary Commission haven't produced their final report as of yet. When it does so presumably after the election there will be changes.


  • Registered Users Posts: 8,451 ✭✭✭ Time Magazine


    Chakar wrote:
    Minister Dick Roche is acting on the legal advice of the Attorney General Rory Brady.
    The same AG who presided over the struck-out Health Act and statutory rape fiasco.

    It does not matter whether or not the Boundary Commission have published their report or not. The representation pretty clearly unconstitutional; their delay does not make it any way more representative.


  • Registered Users Posts: 31,152 ✭✭✭✭ is_that_so


    Chakar wrote:
    Minister Dick Roche is acting on the legal advice of the Attorney General Rory Brady. The Boundary Commission haven't produced their final report as of yet. When it does so presumably after the election there will be changes.

    I don't think they have actually done anything yet.
    This was the legal conclusion they came to last summer - do nothing .
    The option was to get a commission to work on it early this year but in the absence of any officially recognised data i.e. the census, they were not legally obliged to do anything. Such a review as far as I understand it can take some number of months and this also made them back off.

    IIRC the judgement was a combination of politics and legal requirements. The thinking was that as some Govt TD seats could be affected by it they would do nothing until they had to.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 2,510 Tricity Bendix


    Ibid wrote:
    It does not matter whether or not the Boundary Commission have published their report or not. The representation pretty clearly unconstitutional; their delay does not make it any way more representative.
    Ever since the Tullymandering fiasco a boundary review commission decides the make up of Dáil constituencies. I think we'd all agree that it would be unacceptable for the Minister of the day to dictate the shape of the next Dáil. For instance, if he were to take a seat away from Dun Laoghaire it would seriously damage FG's prospects of winning a seat there. FG would no doubt be calling for his head on a plate.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 8,451 ✭✭✭ Time Magazine


    Ever since the Tullymandering fiasco a boundary review commission decides the make up of Dáil constituencies.
    By statute. If they fail to do their job, the Constitution is not fulfilled. It very much appears that the Constitution is not being acknowledged in at least two constituencies and come polling day if that is not addressed we could be in a very, very messy situation. Imagine if the High Court (and ultimately the Supreme Court) declared those elections invalid. What sort of a feckin' limbo would we be in? Now that would be a huge embarrassment to the country nevermind the government; thus my comment about egg on face.
    I think we'd all agree that it would be unacceptable for the Minister of the day to dictate the shape of the next Dáil. For instance, if he were to take a seat away from Dun Laoghaire it would seriously damage FG's prospects of winning a seat there. FG would no doubt be calling for his head on a plate.
    I completely agree that the minister should not change seats like that. However, I think it's far worse for him to sit on his hands while it appears we face a very messy situation. Incidentally I'm not talking about removing a seat in DL but rather adding one to each of DN and DW. They could very well turn out to be FF seats for all I know.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 2,033 Chakar


    Ibid wrote:
    The same AG who presided over the struck-out Health Act and statutory rape fiasco.

    As regards to the statutory rape fiasco the Government couldn't bring in legislation until the court case had been decided. Although the case was monitored throughout. To be honest it was a loophole that wasn't plugged in time so it was unfortunate.


  • Registered Users Posts: 8,451 ✭✭✭ Time Magazine


    Chakar wrote:
    As regards to the statutory rape fiasco the Government couldn't bring in legislation until the court case had been decided. Although the case was monitored throughout. To be honest it was a loophole that wasn't plugged in time so it was unfortunate.
    The courts had warned them well in advance. It had been mentioned in judges' rulings a year beforehand. The government were caught napping. The AG is ultimately responsible for not picking these things up, be it accidental or negligent.

    Now let's not go way OT.


  • Moderators, Entertainment Moderators, Politics Moderators Posts: 14,223 Mod ✭✭✭✭ johnnyskeleton


    ballooba wrote:
    Is it gerrymandering though? Is there a benefit for FF in the way the constituencies are drawn?

    My locality of Louth/Meath is definitely getting the short end of the stick.

    As upmeath points out, many of the under-represented constituencies have experienced large amounts of population growth. By contrast, it would seem that the over-represented ones have a stagnant or decreasing population. So, I don't think that the government can be expected to predict population shifts before the census is published. What they do from now on is the important thing.

    I also think that there probably isn't any attempt to disenfranchise these parts of the population, because (and I hope I'm not making an unfair generalisation here) there is a big focus on stamp duty for first time buyers and other issues aimed to attract the young homeowners and families.


  • Registered Users Posts: 42,735 ✭✭✭✭ K-9


    Ibid wrote:
    By statute. If they fail to do their job, the Constitution is not fulfilled. It very much appears that the Constitution is not being acknowledged in at least two constituencies and come polling day if that is not addressed we could be in a very, very messy situation. Imagine if the High Court (and ultimately the Supreme Court) declared those elections invalid. What sort of a feckin' limbo would we be in? Now that would be a huge embarrassment to the country nevermind the government; thus my comment about egg on face.

    I completely agree that the minister should not change seats like that. However, I think it's far worse for him to sit on his hands while it appears we face a very messy situation. Incidentally I'm not talking about removing a seat in DL but rather adding one to each of DN and DW. They could very well turn out to be FF seats for all I know.

    Could be a challenge alright even though it probably wouldn't make a substantial difference to the overall outcome.

    I wouldn't agree with extra seats. I think recent surveys have shown that we have a lot of TD's for our population compared to other countries.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 2,510 Tricity Bendix


    Ibid wrote:
    By statute. If they fail to do their job, the Constitution is not fulfilled. It very much appears that the Constitution is not being acknowledged in at least two constituencies and come polling day if that is not addressed we could be in a very, very messy situation. Imagine if the High Court (and ultimately the Supreme Court) declared those elections invalid. What sort of a feckin' limbo would we be in? Now that would be a huge embarrassment to the country nevermind the government; thus my comment about egg on face.
    I generally agree. It would be national disgrace if the elections were declared void. But to seek to put all the blame on Minister Roche or on the government as was done previously would be ignorant.


  • Registered Users Posts: 78,053 ✭✭✭✭ Victor


    Removing seats from other constituencies need not necessarily happen now, as their breach of the Constitution is not explicit, in DW and DN it is quite blatant.

    DN currently has secure Green, Labour and FF seat and a marginal FF seat. Adding an extra seat would secure the FF marginal, with the other seat probably going to FG or Labour, although the Socialist Party might have an opportunity, as might FF.

    DW currently has secure Socialist Party and FF seat and a marginal Labour seat. Adding an extra seat would secure the Labour marginal, with the other seat probably going to FG or FF, although the PDs might have an opportunity, SF are unlikely to get the transfers.
    I generally agree. It would be national disgrace if the elections were declared void. But to seek to put all the blame on Minister Roche or on the government as was done previously would be ignorant.
    They've had a year's notice and only the Oireactas change change the Electoral Acts and the government holds a majority in hte Oireachtas. Who would you blame? Or rather who would you seek to rectify the matter?


  • Registered Users Posts: 15,836 ✭✭✭✭ Villain


    Looks like the courts are now involved:

    From BreakingNews.ie:
    High Court challenge to election plans
    08/04/2007 - 14:53:00

    Plans for a general election next month were thrown into jeopardy today after two independent TDs revealed they had begun a High Court challenge over its legality.

    Using figures from the latest census, Kildare TD Catherine Murphy and Dublin North Central TD Finian McGrath claim 10 constituencies as they now stand are unconstitutional.

    The pair believe there are not enough TDs for growing populations and that democracy is being eroded.

    Ms Murphy said the two independents were disgusted at insufficient Dail representation.

    “The Government has lost sight of the fundamentals and the fundamentals are that we have proportional representation and the problem is that it’s not proportionate,” she said.

    Ms Murphy said five constituencies were under-represented -Dublin West and North, Meath East and West and Laois-Offaly.

    Five others were over-represented – Cork North Central, Dun Laoghaire, Kerry North and South and Dublin North-East.

    “It is a manifest infringement,” she said.



    “The fundamental cornerstone of democracy is one person one vote but where one vote has more sway than another the basis on which a democracy is founded comes into question.

    “People fought and died for our rights to vote and the Minister and Attorney General are allowing the value of that vote to be eroded. This must be stopped.”

    Ms Murphy and Mr McGrath analysed last month’s final population records from the Central Statistics Office and claim that 10 of the 43 constituencies breach this rule.

    And in a statement to the court they said this was in breach of article 16 of the constitution that every constituency should have, within reason, the same ratio of TD per population.

    The pair believe the Government will suggest an electoral review which could last six months but as the Dáil has a limited lifetime it is unlikely a lengthy High Court action or an enforced review could cancel the election.

    Ms Murphy however said it was possible for the Government to resolve the alleged mis-representation in some areas without a review and before the election is called.

    The action is being taken against Environment Minister Dick Roche, who has responsibility for constituencies in the election, and the Attorney General, Rory Brady.

    Papers were lodged last week but with the courts in recess the TDs will possibly have to wait several weeks for a hearing.

    It will be interesting to see how the parties respond to this.


  • Registered Users Posts: 8,451 ✭✭✭ Time Magazine


    Good on ye Catherine.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 3,699 InFront


    It's interesting that the two TDs in question are Independents. The last thing that most parties would want is a sudden boundary revision of constituencies. I think Labour were in favour of it after the preliminary census figures, I'm not sure if that's still the case, this close to the election being called?

    It's probably too late for any considerable nationwide revision of seats but, I imagine that playing around with representation - giving more seats to Dublin and taking them away from counties like Donegal and Kerry, maybe Cork - would really have hurt Fianna Fail more than the overall oppositon.


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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 2,033 Chakar


    There was a interview with the two Independent TD's in question in the Sunday Tribune. Also their constituencies aren't affected so they're not doing it for their seats.


  • Registered Users Posts: 15,443 ✭✭✭✭ bonkey


    I'm not entirely sure where the illegality is.

    Section 2.2, as quoted by Victor, refers to the total number of representatives, relative to the population. It does not say that it is illegal to have a constituency where this maximum / minimum ration is breached, but rather that when all constituencies are taken together that teh ratio of representatives to population must fall within the 1:20,000 and 1:30,000 range.

    While an argument can be made with respect to Section 3, it should be noted that it couches its wording with the terribly vague "as far as is practical" rider. Even if we are to ignore this rider, then the case must still be made that adding/removing seats from certain consituencies would result in a better fit.

    If a constituency existed with 2 seats for 62,000 , then sure, there is 31,000 per seat. But with 3 seats, there is 20,666. If the national average is above half the difference (e.g. 26,500) then 2 seats is still the better fit, unless one is to argue that constituency borders be redrawn.

    Note - I'm not saying there isn't a case to be made. I'm questioning the case being made and suggesting that the wrong figures are the ones being highlighted.


  • Registered Users Posts: 78,053 ✭✭✭✭ Victor


    bonkey wrote:
    Section 2.2, as quoted by Victor, refers to the total number of representatives, relative to the population. It does not say that it is illegal to have a constituency where this maximum / minimum ration is breached, but rather that when all constituencies are taken together that teh ratio of representatives to population must fall within the 1:20,000 and 1:30,000 range.
    Confound you! I've been reading that as 20,000-30,000 per seat in each constituency.

    In which case, some expedient needs to be taken to reduce the relative inequity. A seat should come off DL and Kerry.


    Of note, in setting up constituencies, prisoners are counted as resident in prison, but when it comes to voting, the vote goes to their home constituency.

    This makes Dublin Central (Mountjoy, St. Patricks, Training Unit and the Dochas Centre) and Dublin South Central (Cloverhill, Wheatfield), with nearly 1,000 prisoners each, slightly over-represented.


  • Registered Users Posts: 78,053 ✭✭✭✭ Victor


    bonkey wrote:
    Section 2.2, as quoted by Victor, refers to the total number of representatives, relative to the population. It does not say that it is illegal to have a constituency where this maximum / minimum ration is breached, but rather that when all constituencies are taken together that teh ratio of representatives to population must fall within the 1:20,000 and 1:30,000 range.
    Confound you! I've been reading that as 20,000-30,000 per seat in each constituency.

    In which case, some expedient needs to be taken to reduce the relative inequity. Give seats to DN & DW and take them from Kerry and DL.


    Of note, in setting up constituencies, prisoners are counted as resident in prison, but when it comes to voting, the vote goes to their home constituency.

    This makes Dublin Central (Mountjoy, St. Patricks, Training Unit and the Dochas Centre) and Dublin South Central (Cloverhill, Wheatfield), with nearly 1,000 prisoners each, slightly over-represented.


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