Deputy John O’Mahony
Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government
if a commission has been set up to review the European election constituencies; if so, the terms of reference of the commission; when it is expected to report; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan):
Section 5(1) of the Electoral Act 1997, as amended, requires that a Constituency Commission be established to review Dáil and European Parliament constituencies following the publication by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) of the preliminary results of a Census. Following the publication of the preliminary results of the 2011 census by the CSO last year I established a Constituency Commission.
Section 6 of the 1997 Act, as amended, sets out the functions of a Constituency Commission as follows:
(1) It shall be the function of a Constituency Commission to make a report in relation to the constituencies for—
(a) the election of members to the Dáil, and
(b) the election of members of the European Parliament.
(2) In preparing a report under subsection (1)(a) a Constituency Commission shall, in observing the relevant provisions of the Constitution in relation to Dáil constituencies, have regard to the following:
(a) the total number of members of the Dáil, subject to Article 16.2.2 of the Constitution, shall be not less than 153 and not more than 160;
(b) each constituency shall return 3, 4 or 5 members;
(c) the breaching of county boundaries shall be avoided as far as practicable;
(d) each constituency shall be composed of contiguous areas;
(e) there shall be regard to geographic considerations including significant physical features and the extent of and the density of population in each constituency; and
(f) subject to the provisions of this section, the Commission shall endeavour to maintain continuity in relation to the arrangement of constituencies.
(3) In preparing a report under subsection (1)(b) a Constituency Commission shall have regard to the following:
(a) the total number of members of the European Parliament to be elected in the State shall be 12 or such other number as may be specified for the time being pursuant to the treaties governing the European Communities;
(b) there shall be reasonable equality of representation as between constituencies; and
(c) the matters specified in paragraphs (b) to (f) of subsection (2).
(4) The reference in subsection (2)(c) to county boundaries shall be deemed not to include a reference to the boundary of a city or any boundary between any 2 of the counties of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Fingal and South Dublin.
Section 9(1) of the Electoral Act 1997, as amended, requires a Constituency Commission to present its report to the Chairman of the Dáil no later than three months after the publication by the CSO of the final results of the Census in respect of the total population of the State. I understand that the CSO intends to publish the final results of the 2011 Census at the end of March 2012.