A number of intriguing political conundrums for Waterford city and county have been created following the recommendations of the Electoral Area Boundary Committee which published its report this week. The findings will almost certainly give an early kick-start the local elections which are due to take place next summer.
While there is a lot of information to digest with many electoral boundaries being redrawn, the main talking points will be the removal of one seat from the existing Ward 3 six-seater in Waterford city and an increase in the representation of the existing Ward 2 by one seat to six seats with the existing Ward 1 remaining the same with four seats.
The population of Tramore now exceeds that of Dungarvan and the Committee recommends that Dungarvan sheds one of its seven seats to make the current six-seater Tramore into a seven seat electoral area. Consequently, at least one Dungarvan area councilor will lose their seat.
In the city, the bottom line is that, whatever happens, at least one of the current Ward 3 councillors (Mary O’Halloran FG, Seamus Ryan Lab, John Halligan formerly WP now Ind., Tom Murphy, FF, David Cullinane SF and Laurence Cha O’Neill Ind.)will lose their seat not to mention the possibility of others being displaced by challengers.
One of the most startling outcomes of the last election was the almost total annihilation of Fianna Fail leaving the party in the unprecedented position of having just one member on the city council. While public opinion is fickle, it would be a big surprise if Fianna Fail did not make at least a partial comeback in numbers.
According to the report, the population of Waterford City has increased from 42,540 in 1996 to 45,748 in 2006 (a gain of 3,208 or 7.5%). However, this rate of population change has not occurred evenly across the city. Exceptional growth (from 14,916 to 19,673 – an increase of 4,757 or 31.9%) was experienced in Waterford No. 2 electoral area. In contrast, the population declined in the other two electoral areas: in Waterford No. 1 by 6.24% and in Waterford No. 3 by 5.18%.
The present population and arrangement of electoral areas for Waterford City are as follows: Waterford Electoral Area No. 1, 10,486; Waterford No. 2, 19,673;
Waterford Electoral Area No.3, 15,589. All three electoral areas have variations outside of the + or -10% range. At present, Waterford No. 2 has a population closer to that of a six member area while Waterford No. 3 has a population closer to that of a five member area. As the entire area of Waterford City lies within the Dáil constituency of Waterford, alignment between the electoral areas and Dáil constituency boundaries is assured.
The Committee’s recommendation is to maintain the present three electoral area structure with a minimal change in boundaries and a change in membership in two of the areas. In view of the decline in population in Waterford No. 3 electoral area, the Committee considers it appropriate that the membership of this area be reduced by one. The population of 15,589 and a membership of 5 would give it a variation from the average population per member for the city of 2.23%.
The Committee recommends that three electoral divisions (i.e. Centre A, Custom House A and Custom House B) be moved from Waterford No. 2 electoral area to Waterford No. 1 area. Those areas include parts of Francis Street, Thomas Street, Lady Lane, Catherine Street, Waterside and Ballybricken. The common perception is that the loss of those areas will be most felt by the Independent Councillor, David Daniels, who has been the poll topper in Ward 2 since the early 1970s.
The resulting increased population of 11,823 in Waterford No. 1 area would, with its four members, give that area a variation from the city average population per member of -3.09%.
With the transfer from it of the three electoral divisions, Waterford No. 2 electoral area would have a reduced population of 18,336, which is sufficient to justify a membership of six. This would give the electoral area a variation from the average population per member of 0.20%.
The Committee also recommends that the local electoral areas should be renamed as Waterford City North (from Waterford No. 1 at present), Waterford City South (from Waterford No. 3) and Waterford City East (from Waterford No. 2).
The population of County Waterford at present is 62,213 with 23 seats on the County Council. Dungarvan Electoral Area is 18,332, Kilmacthomas 8,186, Lismore 9,435, Suir 7,315 and Tramore 18,945. The deviations from the county average range from -12.79% in Lismore to +16.75% in Tramore. Consequently, recommends the report, some reorganisation is necessary to rebalance representation levels.
County Waterford is mainly contained in the Dáil constituency of Waterford. A small area, south of Clonmel and falling under the Dáil constituency of Tipperary South, would not have population sufficient to support an electoral area. No further alignment with Dáil constituency boundaries is feasible.
Kilmacthomas and Suir electoral areas are both 3 seaters and must be reviewed in line with the terms of reference. The Committee did not find that there were very exceptional circumstances requiring the preservation of either of these electoral areas as 3 seaters. The combined population of Kilmacthomas and Suir would be sufficient to support a 6 seat electoral area, which the Committee would not consider to be disproportionately large. The Committee noted also that a number of submissions supported this amalgamation. The new electoral area could be named Comeragh.
Tramore electoral area is significantly under-represented and has sufficient population to support 7 seats. Its population now exceeds that of Dungarvan, which currently has 7 seats and is slightly over-represented. The Committee considers that Dungarvan should have a reduction of one seat, and that a seat should be added to the Tramore electoral area.
The transfer of some electoral divisions from Dungarvan to Lismore is also indicated to improve representation ratios in both electoral areas. In order to accommodate the above considerations and rebalance the population per member within County Waterford, the Committee recommends: 1. The transfer of electoral divisions as follows: Ballyheeny, Clashmore, Dromore and Keereen (total population 1,372) from Dungarvan to Lismore electoral area.
A new electoral area of Comeragh to be created by amalgamating the existing electoral areas of Suir and Kilmacthomas. The redistribution of council seats among the electoral areas as follows: Dungarvan 6-seats; Lismore 4-seats; Comeragh 6-seats; Tramore 7-seats. The following is a detailed description of each recommended electoral area:
The town of Dungarvan and the electoral divisions of Ardmore, Aird Mhór, An Rinn, Baile Mhac Airt, Bohadoon, Cappagh, Carriglea, Clonea (in the former Rural District of Dungarvan), Colligan, Courmaraglin, Dungarvan Rural, Glenwilliam, Grallagh, Grange, Kinsalebeg, Modelligo (in the former Rural District of Dungarvan), Mountstuart.
The electoral divisions of Ballyduff, Ballyhane, Ballyheeny, Ballyin, Ballynamult, Ballysaggartmore, Cappoquin, Castlerichard, Clashmore, Dromana, Dromore, Drumroe, Gortnapeaky, Keereen, Kilcockan, Kilwatermoy East, Kilwatermoy West, Lismore Rural, Lismore Urban, Mocollop, Modelligo (in the former Rural District of Lismore), Seskinan, Tallow, Templemichael, Whitechurch.
The electoral divisions of Annestown, Ballydurn, Ballylaneen, Ballymacarbry,
Carrigcastle, Carrickbeg Rural, Clonea (in the former Rural District of Carrick-on-Suir No.2), Comeragh, Dunhill, Fenoagh, Fews, Fox’s Castle, Gardenmorris,
Georgestown, Glen, Graignagower, Gurteen, Kilbarrymeaden, Kilmacomma,
Kilmacthomas, Kilmeaden (in the former Rural District of Carrick-on-Suir No.2),
Kilmeaden (in the former Rural District of Waterford No.1), Kilronan,
Knockaunbrandaun, Knockmahon, Mothel, Mountkennedy, Newcastle, Newtown,
Portlaw, Rathgormuck, Ross, St Mary’s, Stradbally, Tinnasaggart.
The electoral divisions of Ballynakill, Drumcannon, Faithlegg, Islandikane, Kilbarry, Killea, Killoteran, Kilmacleague, Pembrokestown, Rathmoylon, Reisk, Tramore.