Westmeath’s population stands at 85,961 according to the provisional figures for the 2011 Census which were released yesterday, Thursday June 30.
The county’s population has increased by 6,615 or 8.3 per cent since the last census in 2006. The male to female ratio is split down the middle with 42,667 males and 43,294 females registered on the Census in Westmeath.
Politically, the combined population of the Longford-Westmeath constituency is 116,592, amounting to a population per TD ratio of 29,148 and meaning that this constituency will not lose a seat even if seat levels in the Dáil are to be reduced by as much as 10.
Fine Gael had called for the number of TDs in the Dáil to be cut in their election campgaing. Under the Program for Government they agreed to carry out a review of the Dáil electoral system. It is now expected to cut TD numbers to up to 13 and no fewer than six
Speaking after the release of the Census population figures political geographer at NUI Maynooth, Dr Adrian Kavanagh said, “What is interesting to note is the fact that the combined populations of Longford (38,970 ) and Westmeath (85,961 ) mean that a constituency involving all the territory of these two counties (and including the return of the Coole/Castlepollard area from Meath West ) would be a possibility.” This could mean the return of the coveted Coole/Castlepollard electoral area which had been given to the Meath West constituency ahead of the 2007 election by Electoral Boundaries Commission.
“If the Constituency Commission decided to reduce the number of seats in the Dail by 10, then the population per TD ratio for a Longford and Westmeath constituency would be 31,233, which would be 6.4 per cent higher than the State average,” expained Dr Kavanagh. “While this would leave this outside the 5 per cent variance limit advised by the Constituency Commission, constituencies with population per TD levels slightly above or below this 5 per cent limit have been permitted in the past in order to preserve county boundaries, as for instance happened in the case of the Cavan-Monaghan constituencies in the 2004 and 2007 boundary revisions. As well as that, Meath now has enough population on its own to sustain two three-seat constituencies without needing the additional territory from Westmeath county.”
A new constituency commission will offer its recommended reductions to the Government within three months of the publication of final census results next year.