Senate vote to bring down curtain on Westmeath’s 115-year electoral system

The referendums scheduled for next month will bring to an end a little bit of local history, as it will be the last time a vote is to be held in Westmeath under the old electoral divisions.

In June this year Westmeath County Council went along with a Government initiative to streamline local democracy, and agreed to abolish one electoral area, two town councils, and three council seats.

The new polling scheme comes into effect on February 15, 2014, to be in place for the next local elections, which have to be held before May 25.

In recent years county councils could last up to eight years (as happened in 1977-85, and 1991-99 ) as they were only called at the behest of the sitting Government. However, in 2001 it was decided to run them in parallel with the five-year cycle of the European Parliament elections.

The referendums - one to abolish the Senate, and the other to set up an extra superior court of appeal - are to be held in a fortnight (October 4 ), and though they have no political effect, they are the last votes to be held in Westmeath under the four-ward system - Athlone, Kilbeggan, Mullingar (divided in 1985 ), and Coole.

This system had been in situ since 1898 when it was introduced to end landlord control of local government, and to soften home rule demands from nationalists.

In the May election, Westmeath County Council will be reduced from 23 seats to 20, seven from Athlone, six from Mullingar-Kilbeggan, and seven in Mullingar-Coole.

All details concerning townland allocations and polling stations can be got from the civic offices in Athlone, Mullingar, Kilbeggan, and Castlepollard or on the council’s website www.westmeathcoco.ie

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