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Those new European election constituencies… April 30, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.

A while back I was asked as a favour (given that I have Photoshop) to rearrange a map for someone of the European constituencies. This individual wanted a single map of the entirety of a certain constituency. In doing this and looking at the map of Ireland as a whole I couldn’t help but notice that if one were to try to compress Midlands North-West into a neat rectangle you’d have a bit of a job. It stretches north and east, or south and west (depending upon taste), in a near chaotic fashion dictated by the curious dispensation left in the wake of partition – or if you prefer, the erm… basic geography of this island and how it interacts with that dispensation.

Meanwhile, reading Harry McGee’s piece on much the same topic in the Irish Times this week it’s hard not to sympathise that the three constituencies are a mess of near epic proportions. Four constituencies have become three. But as noted above what remarkable constituencies two of them now are.

McGee suggests that a sort of political contiguity has been lost and with it ‘an MEP from west Cork can somehow be seen as a geographical representative for a constituent living in Bray’. I don’t know, that sort of stuff is overblown, particularly given the nature of the European Parliament.

And what is the suggested cure? McGee, with tongue firmly in cheek (one hopes), posits:

Midlands-North-West with Carlow-Kilkenny thrown in for good measure? The new constituency of Southern Ireland plus Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown?

Well, why not? My gripe is more aesthetic than political. But he does note one proposed alternative:

It was suggested by the Green Party at the submission stage but could not be entertained, because it fell outside the terms of reference. That was to make the whole of the State into one 11-seat constituency. Such a scenario could have a transformative effect. The constituency would have a coherent nature. It would encourage national and European-level debate rather than localism.

It might. It might.

He continues:

They would represent Ireland, not a hodgepodge of counties. It would favour ideas. It would be quite distinct in all respects from a Dáil election. And, of course, the way elections go, there would still be a good geographical spread.

This though is interesting.

Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are single constituencies for the purpose of European elections.

Well, NI, ain’t quite the same as Scotland. But if it’s good enough for the Scots…


1. Liberius - April 30, 2014

What has been left is a bit of a muddle. Candidates have already embarked on the campaign with the uncertainty of ordnance sappers journeying into unmapped and unexplored territory.

Found that line amusing; ah! the sight of the lesser spotted political aspirant scratching their heads and wondering which micro-village to canvass next on their intrepid journey into wilds of Ireland’s depopulated core…

On a serious note though I see they* are still peddling that ludicrous notion with that 11-seater that detaching politics from constituencies would result in people voting in for policies rather than faces; why not just less locally defined faces?

* They being the politically obsessed middle-classes of course.


Egalitas - April 30, 2014

It doesn’t seem to me to be the least bit ludicrous since nothing about the EuroParl has any local character to it anyhow.

If there is anything I think that Ireland suffers too much of in politics, it’s localism.


Gavin Mendel-Gleason - April 30, 2014

Sorry, I accidentally posted this last comment while still logged in as LeftForum. This is very much in personal capacity.


Liberius - April 30, 2014

It wasn’t localism that I was thinking of though, rather that going to a national constituency would just see the local celebrity candidate replaced with a national celebrity candidate, which isn’t necessarily going to be accompanied by a focus on actual issues.

In general my point was that the panaceas mused upon by the middle-classes for fixing our countries political system are often subject to a large dose of wishful thinking.

For what it’s worth I’m not against the notion of an 11-seater for the EU election, just dubious of its transformative capabilities.


2. eamonncork - May 1, 2014

I’d have to say that the notion that our politicians would all have the time to be putting forward bold and game changing policy initiatives were they not hamstrung by the need to keep their constituents onside has always struck me as a little bit daft. Belief in this particular canard often goes hand in hand with the idea that what we really need is a bunch of non-elected people, businessmen preferably, running the show behind the scenes.
Agreed however that the constituencies make no sense at all. Particularly the Connacht/Ulster/Half of Leinster one.


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