Monday, 18 April 2011 09:05
ballot boxThe findings of the 2011 Census, officially conducted last Sunday, will have far-reaching political implications for a rural county like Mayo. The first hints are likely to be revealed later this year when the Department of Environments sets up a commission to review electoral area
boundaries ahead of the 2011 local elections.
Without wishing to delve too deeply into the realms of speculation, there is a strong likelihood of such a review recommending changes in Belmullet, Swinford and Westport which will have a knock-on effect in other areas.
The Westport area had the lowest electorate (12,420) and the lowest turnout (8,356) in the 2009 local elections.
Belmullet had the second lowest electorate (13,694) and the second lowest turnout (9,177) while Swinford had the third lowest electorate (13,732) and third lowest turnout (9,209).
Based on those figures and the existing geographical shape of the electoral areas in the county, it could be argued that Westport stands the greatest chance of being increased from a four to a five-seater while Belmullet is at risk of being reduced from a four to a three-seater.
Such a process would involve Newport being switched back into Westport where it had been in previous elections. A case could also be made for transferring Mulranny into Westport, a move that would have implications for Independent Councillor Michael Holmes.
There is the possibility of Ballina justifying the creation of a seventh seat to bring it on parity with Castlebar. Should it happen, it will have implications for Swinford or Belmullet.
While the review committee that made its recommendations prior to the 2009 local elections did not favour three-seat electoral areas, as demonstrated by the decision to incorporate Ballinrobe into Claremorris, the possibility of the number of electoral areas being cut from six to five cannot be ruled out at this point.
A key factor that cannot be overlooked when considering probable boundary changes in advance of the next local elections is the proposal that Mayo County Council and Roscommon County Council should be amalgamated.
Consequently, those assigned the task of reviewing the boundaries may be requested to do so in the context of a number of local authorities being merged.