(open source image of Dáil Eireann from wikipedia)

There has also been widespread airing of the view that suggests that we have simply too many TDs; currently we have 166, and some commentators have suggested 120 would be a better number (allied perhaps with an abolition of the Seanad). The Irish constitution actually comes into play here because it indicates the ratio of TDs to population quite explicitly:

Article 12.2 says the PRSTV by secret ballot must be used for presidential elections. The voting system is also mentioned in Article 16.1.4 (which says only one vote per person is permissible). The most detailed provision is Article 16.2.2 and Article 16.2.3 which states:

“2° The number of members shall from time to time be fixed by law, but the total number of members of Dáil Éireann shall not be fixed at less than one member for each thirty thousand of the population, or at more than one member for each twenty thousand of the population.

3° The ratio between the number of members to be elected at any time for each constituency and the population of each constituency, as ascertained at the last preceding census, shall, so far as it is practicable, be the same throughout the country.”

Notice the provision uses the expression ‘population’. It does NOT use the expression ‘registered voters’ or citizens. Therefore according to our existing constitution we could have between 1 TD for every 20,000 people or 1 TD for every 30,000 people. According to the latest (2006) census by the Central Statistics Office, the population of the Irish Republic now stands at: 4,239,848 persons. If we divide that by the higher figure of 30,000 it suggests we could have 141 TDs and meet the letter of the constitutional law. Thus there is no constitutional impediment to a very simple amendment of ordinary electoral law to bring the number of TDs down from 166 to 141 or there abouts. My point here is that there may be more scope to change our electoral system without a referendum, than is commonly realised. The obvious opportunity would be to wait until census 2011 is completed because sadly with increased emigration, the Irish population may be falling (although there are signs its still increasing as well!).


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