Within the next fortnight, Fine Gael Senator Fidelma Healy Eames and Independent TD Noel Grealish, will learn whether they will remain representatives for Galway West or find themselves fighting for seats in Galway East at the next General Election.
The Irish Electoral Boundary Commission is currently conducting a review of the State’s 43 constituencies and it will issue its report and recommended changes to the Government on Monday June 18.
Although nothing official has been issued there is intense speculation that proposals will be brought forward to change the constituencies of Galway West, Galway East, and Mayo.
As part of the Fine Gael/Labour Programme For Government, the coalition promised to conduct a review to look at reducing the number of TDs from 166 to between 156 to 160. According to Government sources, Connacht is in line for number of boundary changes.
There is currently one TD for every 25,512 people. As such, Mayo’s population of 130, 552 is not enough to justify the constituencies’ five seats and is likely to drop to four seats under the commission recommendations. However, this would then leave Mayo with a population greater than required for four seats.
Mayo is likely to be carved up under the new recommendations with either its eastern section going into Roscommon-South Leitrim or the south of the county becoming part of Galway West.
Galway West has five seats and its population is large enough to justify that level of representation. However, if the southern section of Mayo - Ballinrobe, Cong, Cross, and Glencorrib - are transferred into Galway West, Galway West’s population will then go over the level required for five seats.
This would then lead to the Oranmore Electoral Area being transferred to Galway East, thus allowing that constituency to retain its current level of four seats.
The possibility of Oranmore becoming part of Galway East will be of great concern to Sen Healy Eames and Dep Grealish as it will see them facing political life in a new constituency.
Although they will retain their base within Galway East, they will also leave behind the profile they have built up in Galway city and Connemara and enter into a region where Fine Gael’s Paul Connaughton jr, Ciaran Cannon, and Labour’s Colm Keaveney will not relinquish their seats lightly, where Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Kitt has proven a resilient representative since 1975, and where Labour senator Lorraine Higgins is earmarked for a push by the party.
Galway may also see changes to its city and county local election wards as well. A boundary commission will be established in July to look at local government elections. It is likely to recommend the abolition of all, or most, of the State’s town councils.
However it may also suggest new electoral wards, although given Galway city’s population, the Galway City Council may require an extra councillor. The commission will report to the Government in January.