Revised electoral areas ‘an attempt to squeeze out radical voices from council’

by Mark O'Brien
The revised Local Electoral Areas

Changes to Local Electoral Areas (LEA) in the South Dublin County Council have been criticised, with some local representatives saying the changes amount to gerrymandering.

The report from the Local Area Boundary Committee was released last Thursday and recommended some major changes to the Lucan and Clondalkin area ahead of the local elections next year.

The terms of reference for the redrawing of the LEAs stated that no constituency should have less than five seats or more than seven seats.

The Lucan LEA, which is currently an eight-seat constituency, has been reduced to a five-seat constituency.

The Clondalkin LEA is also currently an eight-seat constituency, with this now being reduced to seven seats.

A new five-seat Palmerstown-Fonthill constituency has been created, taking in North Clondalkin (north of the railway line), Palmerstown and South Lucan (west of the Outer Ring Rd).

Several local representatives said they were disappointed with the changes.

Local TD Gino Kenny (PBP) said he was disappointed North Clondalkin had been separated from the rest of Clondalkin.

He said: “Growing up in North Clondalkin I always felt part of that community and it is sad to see that division being created by changing the boundaries.

“It’s not an exaggeration to say that a type of political gerrymandering is been conducted regarding these changes.”

His party colleague Cllr Madeleine Johansson said the creation of more LEAs was a “cynical move” to reduce seats for smaller parties.

“It’s an attempt to squeeze out radical voices from the county councils,” she said.

Cllr Francis Timmons said he also believed that the redrawing of the boundaries amounted to gerrymandering.

He said: “A lot of people I have spoken to are very angry and this will be reflected in the vote next May.

“It is very regrettable that the Government did not step in and reverse this decision.”

Cllr Paul Gogarty (Ind) welcomed the fact that Saggart and Brittas had been moved from the Tallaght South LEA back to the Clondalkin LEA but said he had issues with other aspects of the report.

He said: “It does get rid of the debate as to whether Balgaddy is Lucan or Clondalkin; they are now all together.

“Palmerstown comes out well of this either way, which I welcome as it allows a cohesive representation from a vibrant and active community, and it is the only village area in the Palmerstown-Fonthill LEA.

“North Clondalkin and Lucan east of the Outer Ring Road are not quite as distinct communities, so I don’t know how they will be represented separately to the rest of Lucan or Clondalkin respectively – and don’t even talk about church parishes, which are now rendered meaningless in terms of identifiable communities.”

Cllr Ed O’Brien (FF) said the changing of the boundaries was merely a sideshow to the issue of reforming local government.

He said: “It’s disappointing that the publication of this week’s report was not accompanied by comprehensive proposals to empower local governance.

“The decision of this government has done enormous damage to our system of local governance.

“It has led to an over-centralisation of power and has prevented towns like Lucan from putting forward and implementing their own plans to improve local services and attract inward investment.

“The continued tinkering with the local electoral boundaries can be seen as serving only one purpose, and that is to further the electoral needs of the government.”

The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government rejected claims of gerrymandering.

A spokesperson for the Department told Dublin Gazette: “Although the Minister may establish a Boundary Committee, the Committee is completely independent in the performance of its functions.

“The independence of a Boundary Committee is a legal requirement under Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1991.”

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