Eoghan Dalton Reports
It has been suggested that electoral areas should be rearranged to increase political representation for people in mid-county Waterford.
Of Waterford’s three electoral districts, Comeragh has the least with six Councillors while Waterford Metropolitan has 18 and Dungarvan-Lismore has eight.
Michael J O’Ryan (FF) told last month’s sitting of Comeragh District Council that more Councillors are needed to properly represent the area, which takes in Kilmeaden, Portlaw, Bunmahon, Kilmacthomas and Ballymacarbry.
“I feel sometimes we are the poor relation when seeking funding as opposed to the two areas either side of us,” he said.
“Even though we work very well together as a six councillor body, we are the smallest municipal district in the county of Waterford. If we had more councillors we would have more representation and so our constituents would be more fairly treated. We would also have more money for roads and things that we deem necessary,” he said.
He believes one way of bringing this about would be by moving people into the Comeragh area by redefining the boundary, likely taking them from the Waterford City West and Tramore Electoral Area. Cllr O’Ryan said it would provide balance between the east and west of the county.
“In the west there’s 14 councillors and the city have 18. I think if you increase Comeragh to seven or eight, similar to Dungarvan-Lismore, you’d have more of a balance between rural and urban and we’d have more of a chance of getting funding for the rural roads.”
Tramore based Cllr Joe Conway (Ind) however maintains that the key issue surrounding the Boundary Commission is that it will gerrymander constituencies to increase representation for the main parties – at the expense of independents.
The Cabinet agreed in December to set the number of Councillors and the size of Electoral Areas for the 2019 Local Elections, with five and seven seaters in local electoral areas. It is believed that geographically isolated areas will be three seaters.
Fine Gael had originally looked to reduce the size of electoral areas by a larger margin, before kickback from the Independent Alliance. Cllr Conway said up to 40 per cent of independent councillors would lose their seats as a result of the original proposal, as that number had been elected to the fifth or lower seat.
“The major Government party sees an urgent need to reverse Fine Gael’s slide in numbers which saw them lose 105 councillors at the last local election in 2014. With close to 200 councillors, the Independents comprise a formidable voting strength in the Seanad elections.
“At the Seanad election count in 2016, I personally overheard a prominent Fine Gael politician refer to Independent councillors as an “irritating reality”. They want to put paid to as many of us ‘irritating realities’ as they can,” said Cllr Conway.