The latest Constituency Commission report is due to be published at the end of June and indications are that all of Leitrim will be reunited with Co Sligo as an electoral constituency. The constituency may also see the addition of West Cavan and/ or South Donegal to the mix to even up population figures.
The Save Leitrim campaigners will be over the moon as will the majority of Leitrim people who longed to see the county as a whole for election purposes – but how will these changes effect the political landscape?
The addition of West Cavan and/or South Donegal, if included next month, could bring huge opportunities to potential candidates, if not some concern to sitting TDs.
According to early forecasts Roscommon may be merged with an eastern section of Mayo or Galway in the new change around. The commission report is also expected to recommend a decrease in the number of TDs and the loss of at least eight is anticipated.
The commission took into account the 2011 census figures published in March and the Coalition pledge to reduce the number of TDs. It is expected to recommend wholesale changes to boundaries, with Dublin, Munster and Connacht-Ulster each losing three seats and Leinster outside Dublin gaining one. The changes are expected to see the merging of two Donegal three-seaters into one five-seater and the five-seat Cavan Monaghan being reduced to a four-seater.
But it is the re-marrying of Co Leitrim to Co Sligo with the possibility of additions from Cavan and Donegal that will be the talking point locally.
Leitrim’s only TD Michael Colreavy (SF) said he would be very pleased if one of his main electoral goals, the reunification of Leitrim for electoral purposes is achieved. Colreavy said there is “every possibility” Sinn Fein could run two TDs in the next election if Sligo Leitrim and parts of Cavan and Donegal make up the constituency. The Manorhamilton Deputy said that he does “feel for the people of Cavan and Donegal” if they are split to help re-unify Leitrim. “One hand give, one taketh away” he commented. ,
He said Cavan/ Monaghan were close to electing two Sinn Fein TDs in the last election and the West Cavan vote is vital to that. He does believe that Donegal can sustain their two TDs if they lose the Ballyshannon region.
Colreavy does fear changes to local councils though and that one county manager could be put in place for Sligo and Leitrim, which he said would be a shame for Leitrim.
Fine Gael TD for Roscommon South Leitrim, Frank Feighan said he will “honour my commitment” to the people of South Leitrim and Roscommon for the Government term but would not indicate his intentions for the next general election.
Feighan said “the people of Leitrim have been good and fair to me.” He said he could have easily walked away from the Government over the Roscommon Hospital issue but he said he had to remember he had two counties to represent and not one issue.
He said he has been the voice on many issues and hopes to continue to campaign for them including the new school and community hospital in Ballinamore and the retention for jobs in MBNA.
Independent Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan said “The information available at the moment is only speculation. As I understand it, it looks like there is potential for Roscommon to go in with east Galway or east Mayo but no confirmation has been made yet. I was elected by the people of Roscommon/South Leitrim and I have a mandate to represent them and I will continue to do so,” he said.
Cavan/Monaghan Fianna Fail TD and former Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith said he would be “opposed to the division of my county.” The TD originally from Bawnboy, in West Cavan which is close to the Leitrim border said he had a “sympathy” for Leitrim being split but that should not result in the division of Cavan which also has a small population.
Deputy Smith also voiced his concern over the number of TD seats being reduced in rural Ireland. He said TDs are of higher demand and have longer distances to cover in the country than in urban areas. Deputy Smith said he will be contesting the next election in the Cavan/ Monaghan constituency.
Cllr John McCartin, who’s father Joe was TD in the old Sligo Leitrim constituency, said that as Ireland’s least populous county, “it’s only fair that we be focused on and represented by TDs from one constituency. We are the only county with a population density of less than 20 people per square km and as a result, maintaining political clout is a major challenge. Allowing the county to speak with one voice will go a long way towards redressing this.”
Cllr McCartin would not comment on whether he would run for election in a new constituency which could include his neighbouring area of West Cavan.
Fianna Fáil Senator Paschal Mooney and Fine Gael Senator Michael Comiskey both welcomed the end of the division of Leitrim.
Leitrim was first joined with Sligo in 1923, divided in 1935, reunited in 1947, broken again in 1969 and reformed in 1980 before the split again in 2007. 1969 saw Leitrim split in three ways between Sligo, Roscommon and Donegal. Also in 1974, Co Sligo, part of Leitrim and part of Donegal formed a constituency.