Ireland now has over 5.1 million people, according to the results of the Census published on Tuesday. This is up 8% on the previous census in 2016.
Donegal’s population of 166,321 was up almost 5% on 2016.
It’s expected, based on the Census results, that Donegal will get an additional seat in the Dáil with the current five seat constituency that was introduced in 2016 replaced with two three-seat constituencies that operated from 1981-2011.
The Constitution requires Dáil representation of one TD for every 20,000-30,000 citizens, and based on the current population that will see the number of TDs increase from its current 160 to around 180.
An Electoral Commission is already examining Dáil boundaries and is expected to issue its report by the end of August.
The ramifications for political parties and independents of redrawn constituencies in Donegal will be profound and will substantially change the political calculus ahead of the next general election which must be held by the start of March 2025.
A dozen submissions regarding Donegal’s representation to the Dáil were made to the Electoral Commission, the independent body established earlier this year to review electoral boundaries.
Submissions on boundaries were made by private citizens and public representatives by the 10 May deadline.
Almost all the submissions highlighted the annexation of parts of south Donegal, including the towns of Bundoran and Ballyshannon, into the makey-up constituency of Sligo-Leitrim/North Roscommon/ South Donegal, and called for its repatriation into Donegal.
A detailed submission from Mary Theresa McBride highlighted the increased population of the county, and the need to return South Donegal.
She argues for the return to two three seat constituencies for Donegal as the single county constituency, and the large distances and associated long hours required to conduct constituency work, is a barrier to achieving gender equality.
John Kelly said Donegal has such a strong sense of county identity that it shouldn’t be divided and instead have a single eight seat constituency, as it had from 1923-37.
Tony Wade said South Donegal should be returned to Donegal as he had no wish for a Sligo TD to represent him in the Dáil.
At any rate there are far too many TDs as it is, he said, and no more should be added.
“If the constitution requires this, then we should change it. God knows, we alter it every six months these days.”