Fixed-boundary constituencies and the principle of equal representation in Ireland

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Abstract

The process of constituency boundary revision in Ireland, designed to satisfy what is perceived as a rigid requirement that a uniform deputy-population ratio be maintained across constituencies, has traditionally consumed a great deal of the time of politicians and officials. For almost two decades after a High Court ruling in 1961, the process was a political one, was highly contentious, and was marked by serious allegations of ministerial gerrymandering. The introduction in 1979 of constituency commissions made up of officials neutralised, for the most part, charges that the system had become too politicised, but it continued the process of micro-management of constituency boundaries. This article suggests that the continuing problems caused by this system – notably, the permanently changing nature of constituency boundaries and resulting difficulties of geographical identification – could be resolved by reversion to the procedure that is normal in proportional representation systems: periodic post-census allocation of seats to constituencies whose boundaries are based on those of recognised local government units and which are stable over time. This reform, replacing the principle of redistricting by the principle of reapportionment, would result in more recognisable constituencies, more predictable boundary trajectories over time, and a more efficient, fairer, and speedier process of revision.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)531-554
Number of pages24
JournalIrish Political Studies
Volume30
Issue number4
Early online date23 Oct 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015

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