Deputy Peter Burke has written to the Constituency Commission demanding that Westmeath citizens currently assigned to the Meath East constituency be reunified with Longford-Westmeath for election purposes.
The Fine Gael Deputy for Longford-Westmeath says the decision to separate Westmeath into two different Dáil constituencies was “a huge mistake”.
“I am firmly of the opinion that County Westmeath should not be divided when it comes to electing members of Dáil Éireann,” he said. “As stated in the Electoral (Amendment ) Act 1997, Section 6 (2 )(c ): ‘the breaching of county boundaries shall be avoided as far as practicable’. I believe the breach involved in the division of these constituencies creates a number of problems and obstacles to good representation.”
Deputy Burke pointed to pride in one’s county and personal identity as two primary arguments against the separation. “We receive education and training here, we raise our children and follow Westmeath in GAA and other sports and there is a great sense of community in our area. I am sure this is also the case in Meath, but areas in North Westmeath are not linked in any meaningful way to Meath in this manner,” he said.
“The dividing line of the constituency is arbitrary and it is unfair that Westmeath citizens do not have access to a Westmeath constituency purely because of their proximity to county borders.”
When it comes to general elections, Deputy Burke says many people feel disenfranchised from politics as they are unfamiliar with the candidates on the ballot paper.
“Many TDs and representatives in Longford-Westmeath get a large volume of work from the Meath West area. I can personally attest to this. This proves that the system is not working,” he added. “This is our chance to put right the mistake that was made to separate the county.”