If you have a new account but are having problems posting or verifying your account, please email us on for help. Thanks :)
Hello all! Please ensure that you are posting a new thread or question in the appropriate forum. The Feedback forum is overwhelmed with questions that are having to be moved elsewhere. If you need help to verify your account contact

Should we limit the number of TDs to 160

  • 29-04-2022 10:08am
    Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 19,527 Mod ✭✭✭✭

    Following the census we have just submitted, it is likely the Dail numbers will increase by a significant amount - between 169 to 179 or so.

    There is a requirement in the constitution stipulating the number to be at least one TD per 30,000 of the population. The numbers will be swelled by the Ukraine refugees, as the number is defined by population, not voters.

    Now the number of legislators required should not be proportional to population - well not a simple proportion, because as the population grows, we do not need more TDs, otherwise countries like Germany, or the EU, would have huge parliaments/assemblies.

    So how should the number of TDs be arrived at? Let us assume 160 for the moment - currently 160.

    Well we need a Taoiseach, so that is one. We need ministers to run departments, and that is capped at 15. We have Junior ministers, again about 15, but that has grown as needs of coalitions mean an extra one or two are needed to balance political numbers. Add a few committee chairmen and deputies - say another 15. So we get to the number of TDs on the Gov payroll getting up to 40.

    So if the Gov has 40 TDs in some form of executive roll, then that means 50% of Gov TDs are considered able to carry out those functions. Now given anyone can run for the Dail, and any of those could be elected with the only stipulation that they get enough popular support (votes), they any elected TD could be of any level of ability. So if 50% of Gov TDs are selected to serve in the executive and are selected on merit (generally true, but not always) then 160 TDs should be enough to get a good set of individuals with sufficient abilities to run the country.

    To limit the number to 160 would require a constitutional amendment. Would it be worth it?



  • Registered Users Posts: 580 ✭✭✭CrookedJack

    You're missing out on another important role of the Dail - they are a representative body, they are elected to represent their constituents, not just the voters. Why would we dilute that representation needlessly? And how could we do it fairly? the Dail is more than the executive alone, the more we dilute representation the less our individual voices are heard. The cost of TD is miniscule in perspective, and protecting our democratic rights is worth the extra cost in my opinion.

  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 19,527 Mod ✭✭✭✭Sam Russell

    Restricting the number of TDs does not really reduce representation in any significant way. It is not proposed to reduce the number - just fix it at the current level. The number of TDs depends on the population, not the number of voters.

    The Dail cannot physically hold more TDs that 169 anyway. Perhaps we should build a special new building to house them - maybe on a greenfield site in Athlone or maybe in Cork and hope it costs less than the National Children's Hospital.

    The numbers are not a great change but would it make a difference? At the moment Wexford has 5 TDs, a redraw of the constituency would probably result in two three seater constituencies, or the constituency boundary changing which would mean voters moving to s different constituency. Is that what you want? How does that work for representation? The sitting TD sees their home base split between two constituencies, or a county like Leitrim becomes a county without a TD for their county but shared by two other counties.

    I think it would bring a bit of stability to our system.

  • Registered Users Posts: 243 ✭✭LasersGoPewPew

  • Registered Users Posts: 68,465 ✭✭✭✭L1011

    A fixed number would cause much more disruption to constituency boundaries than the current system as it'd cause areas with static population to have to reduce in representatives.

  • Registered Users Posts: 25,247 ✭✭✭✭breezy1985

    It should certainly not be fixed to a max number but I would be ok with raising the TD to person ratio a little.

    It would also be great if Irish people could get over the county nonsense but we are nowhere near that sadly.

  • Advertisement
  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 19,527 Mod ✭✭✭✭Sam Russell

    Certainly, the number could be calculated on a basis that is not strictly proportional, but raises from a base and as the numbers grow, the increase is less. So, say, a 10% increase in population causes a 5% increase in numbers. The UK are reducing the number of MPs, particularly in Wales and Scotland. (I wonder why a Tory Gov with an 80 seat majority, mainly based in England, would do that).

    As for counties, it would make sense to redraw local Gov areas, so that cities on county boundaries can have larger hinterlands that cross county boundaries. I am thinking of Limerick and Waterford, but others might be affected. Plus, of course, the powers of LAs should be made must clearer and more accountable - but that is a different matter.

  • Registered Users Posts: 25,247 ✭✭✭✭breezy1985

    Or even just something as simple as a TD for every 32 or 35k instead of 30k

  • Registered Users Posts: 555 ✭✭✭dasa29

    The number of TD's has changed in the last three Elections as follows:

    2011 Election: 166 TD's

    2016 Election: 158 TD's

    2020 Election: 160 TD's

    Up till the 2011 election the number of TD's in the Dáil was 166 but was revised after the 2011 census and reduced to 158 TD's for the 2016 election. Following the census in 2016 the number of TD's was changed from 158 to 160 TD's for the 2020 election so following the census this year it might change again.

    Also The Electoral (Amendment) (Dáil Constituencies) Act 2017 (No. 39) is a law of Ireland which revised Dáil constituencies and the Act implemented the recommendations of this report and repealed the Electoral (Amendment) (Dáil Constituencies) Act 2013, which had defined the constituencies used since the 2016 general election. It increased the range for future revisions by the Constituency Commission of Dáil constituencies from between 153 and 160 TDs in 2011 legislation, to between 166 and 172 TDs

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,974 ✭✭✭Brussels Sprout

    They discussed this topic on this week's Irish Times Politics podcast. They made the point that although people often say that we have very high numbers per head of population apparently that's not really true. When you compare it to the UK it is but if you compare us to EU states we are about average. For example Finland has a slightly larger population than us (5.5m) but has 200 members of parliament.

    We also have ridiculously weak local government.

    For that reason I would only think it would be a good idea to cap the numbers in the Dail if powers were devolved to the councils. As part of that I think that councilors would need to be full time and paid a proper wage.

    If you just want to cap the numbers in the Dail and not reform local government then you're creating a democratic deficit in relation to where we are today.

  • Registered Users Posts: 25,247 ✭✭✭✭breezy1985

    The councils is the big difference between us and the UK. Just look at NI and you see that have way more than the 1 per county stuff we mostly have. So it's often less of one and more of the other.

  • Advertisement
  • Registered Users Posts: 68,465 ✭✭✭✭L1011

    Finland is unicamarel, we've two houses. Although our proposal to go unicamarel didn't increase the numbers in the lower/only house at all.

  • Registered Users Posts: 25,247 ✭✭✭✭breezy1985

    When is that Seanad reform the senators promised us happening by the way ?

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,974 ✭✭✭Brussels Sprout

    That's true but the OP was specifically about our lower house and the representation per head so I believe it is a valid comparison.

    The Seanad members don't represent geographic areas so it's not like you can just add those numbers onto the Dail ones in order to compare our representation per head of population to other parliaments. Nobody ever says "I'm going to complain to my local Senator!"

  • Registered Users Posts: 68,465 ✭✭✭✭L1011

    It was never promised by anyone in any position to implement it. The referendum was keep as is or ditch; reform was never on the table. But some people convinced a lot of the electorate that it was!

  • Registered Users Posts: 25,247 ✭✭✭✭breezy1985

    Ya that was the joke they got very quiet once it was done but I suppose they knew us uneducated whelps can't hold them to account. I must write to Norris and ask him when the "plebs" are gonna get a vote.

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,992 ✭✭✭timmyntc

    Whether you cap TDs or not, people always get less representation as population grows.

    Even if its a TD per 30k people, as population grows and # TDs grows, the TD representing you and your 30k has less of a say. Democracy in larger groups always results in less representation, its just how it is. The solution to the representation question is more local representation, as said above we need more power at the local authority level and less at the national authority.

    If LAs were to get more power and better represent their constituents at the LA level, then I would agree with static number of TDs. As explained its the same thing as far representation in national matters goes, the only difference being you pay less salaries with fixed number of TDs.

  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 19,527 Mod ✭✭✭✭Sam Russell

    Personally, I would like to see the Dail limited to 160 TDs, with regional assemblies numbering 5 to 7 with a lower level of county councils or city councils as the lowest tier. Dublin (City, South, DLR, and Fingal) would have a unitary authority with no lower level and an elected executive mayor.

    The Dail would deal with legislation, finance, foreign affairs, legal system, public health, health policy, agriculture, energy, education policy, social protection, defence, national infrastructure including transport and water and related planning, and other type of stuff.

    The regional assemblies would deal with housing, environment, local education and schools, local health, local housing, and local roads and would manage the budget for these services. Perhaps the Garda management would mimic this structure.

    The county councils would just implement much of this stuff at the very local level. It would move the populist political stuff out of the Dail

    Now, this is just a personal speculative list, and is open to better ideas.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,438 ✭✭✭McGiver

    I see Finland was mentioned. So I'll mention Czechia too, population 10.7 million.

    The Parliament of consists of the House of Deputies and the Senate.

    House of Deputies - 200 members, fixed in the Constitution

    Senate - 81 members, fixed in the Constitution

    Plus there are 13 regional assemblies with reasonable degree of political and budget autonomy.

    I agree with @samrussell that the number of TDs should be fixed here as well, which is quite common in other EU countries. Also, agree that regional government/assemblies are needed.

    Ireland has effectively no decentralisation or regional government system to speak of. Ireland appears to be the most centralised country in the EU, based on my international travails and knowledge. County Councils are NOT local government per se, they are a local administration, this is a differnt function. The issue in Ireland is that in the absence of regional government the Dail becomes a haggling shop where local TDs are discussing regional issues and begging money for regional projects, instead of discussing national issues and policies. The consequence is that there are basically no solid national medium-long term policies created or discussed in the National Parliament! Instead of being a national Parliament it's a Parliament of Counties...and because all the money and population is concentrated in The Pale, Dublin always wins.

  • Registered Users Posts: 849 ✭✭✭petronius

    Yes, we have too many TD's!

    the number of TD's are tied to the population, so needs to be a change in the law (referendum)

    Say 120? would be a good number, would roughly work out 40 TDS for Dublin and surroundings, and 80 for the rest of the republic.

    You could even have it as 10, 5-seat, 10, 4-seat, and 10, 3 seat constituencies

  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 19,527 Mod ✭✭✭✭Sam Russell

    The minimum number of TDs is limited by the format of the executive. If we have 15 cabinet ministers and 15 junior ministers, plus a few others, then say 40 members of the executive. With 120 TDs, the Gov would have 60 TDs, and two thirds would have executive jobs. That is too high a portion so that the inevitable coterie of dud/low calibre TDs means that an unacceptable number would get into important jobs. It would also give too much power to factions within the ruling parties.

    I think, with our executive overhead of EU business, and current UN business, we would need at least 160 TDs.

  • Advertisement
  • Registered Users Posts: 2,984 ✭✭✭BailMeOut

    For those interested, this is what the Constitution says (ARTICLE 16)

    1 Dáil Éireann shall be composed of members who represent constituencies determined by law.

    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.

    4 The Oireachtas shall revise the constituencies at least once in every twelve years, with due regard to changes in distribution of the population, but any alterations in the constituencies shall not take effect during the life of Dáil Éireann sitting when such revision is made.

    5 The members shall be elected on the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote.

    6 No law shall be enacted whereby the number of members to be returned for any constituency shall be less than three.

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,974 ✭✭✭Brussels Sprout

    I know that usually the process for #4 is first the Census takes place and then the Boundary Commission draw up the new constituencies based on its results. However we will soon have a new Electoral Commission for the first time so I wonder if the process will change much. Presumably not but it may take a little longer since it's a new body.

  • Registered Users Posts: 68,465 ✭✭✭✭L1011

    #4 is only there should census changes not trouble the maximum or minimum for that time period - to ensure that redistribution occurs to even out seat allocation. I think it did have to happen on that basis

    The longest its ever gone was 14 years - would have been that requisite 12 except the first attempt was so dodgy it was struck down as unconstitutional! (and gave us the 5% margin for constituencies to the ratio, which is why we now often get weird polyps of a small area of one county glued to another)

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,974 ✭✭✭Brussels Sprout

    "It was found to be repugnant to the Constitution" - what a line!

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,835 ✭✭✭CrabRevolution

    The idea that empowering local councils would remove local politics from the Dáil is comically naïve. There are huge swathes of the population who see the entirety of Irish politics as an existential struggle between the "real" down to earth hard working Rest of the Country vs. greedy Dublin. They honestly believe that any money spent on or in Dublin is theft of what's rightfully theirs.

    As long as we have a national Parliament of any form, we'll have people elected to that parliament on the promise of sticking it to Dublin.

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,992 ✭✭✭timmyntc

    The majority of parish pump politics is due to the fact that if you actually want anything meaningful done in your LA, you need a TD for it, since councils are largely powerless in what they can/cant do.

    It absolutely would reduce local politics from the Dail, firstly because local politics could not be dealt with by the Dail anymore. Councils/regional authorities would be in charge of these local issues, so any TDs elected on that basis wouldnt even be able to waste time discussing it since it simply is not the Dails remit.

  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 19,527 Mod ✭✭✭✭Sam Russell

    The EU works on the basis of 'subsidiarity' - that is decisions are made at the lowest level that is politically appropriate.

    If it is the business of a LA (or regional assembly) to maintain the roads that are not designated National Primary Routes - the it is the LA that does this and a TD would have no impact on it whatsoever. The matters that should be controlled locally should be dealt by a regional assembly at a level between the current county council and the Dail. There should be five or six of them and they should deal with most (all) of the day to day affairs such as health, education, gardai that would be arranged to align with those assemblies. Of course there would be overall control by the Dail and the Minister responsible in matters of legislation, budget, governance, and such matters.

    I do not see how more TDs would help in any way with Gov business no matter how it is organised. All it would mean is more jobs for the boys (or girls) and their support staff.

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,198 ✭✭✭Ubbquittious

    I think the limit on the number of TDs should be a power of two like 128 or 256

  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 19,527 Mod ✭✭✭✭Sam Russell

    Surely all it to be is an even number. The Ceann Comhairle is not a voting TD unless there is a tie.

    How does a power of two come in? Is there any parliament in the world that follows that?

  • Advertisement
  • Registered Users Posts: 23,944 ✭✭✭✭Larbre34

    The number of TDs is largely irrelevant.

    The big issue is disconnecting our national legislators from the Parish Pump.

    In my version of the 2nd Irish Republic, we will have a one chamber national parliament, elected by a list system and a strengthened system of regional authorities, max 7 or 8, to manage local development and social issues. Members of those Authorities will represent local areas and be full time and paid. The 34 useless City and County Councils will be abolished, saving us about net 500 public representatives.