Kilkenny is to become part of the ‘Ireland South’ constituency for European elections, following a redrawing of the boundaries last week.
Under the new boundaries, the existing ‘East’ constituency of which Kilkenny is part will cease to exist. Kilkenny and Carlow will thus join Munster counties Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Clare, Wexford, Waterford and Tipperary, as well as Wicklow, in an enlarged four-seat South constituency.
At present, Ireland has 12 seats in the European Parliament, but will lose one due to the recent acession of Croatia to the EU. As well as Ireland South, the new areas will comprise a three-seater in Dublin, and the remaining four seats in a Midlands-North-West constituency.
But one local MEP says the redrawing is bad news for counties like Kilkenny. Fianna Fail’s Liam Aylward says we will struggle to elect our own representative given the size and population of the constituency we are now in.
“Its an absolute disaster for the south Leinster counties,” said Mr Aylward.
“It’s very unlikely now we will have an MEP in the Carlow-Kilkenny-Wicklow area.”
“Someone campaigning for Kilkenny or Wexford will have to travel down to Dingle or the the Galway border in Clare. It is going to be practically impossible – you could be in Brussels or Strasbourg four or five nights of the week, then to come back and attend a meeting in Kerry, where you’d probably have to stay overnight...”
The Mullinavat man is disappointed over the support from the Government at home, and is worried about our clout in Europe with just 11 seats in a parliament of 754. Germany, for example, has 93 seats.
The Irish Government actually had veto power over the reduction in seats, and Mr Aylward wrote to the Taoiseach asking for it to be used, but it was not.
“This was always going to happen from the day we conceded the twelfth seat,” he said.
“We should have fought it, we should have made a stand. It’s our third reduction – from 15, to 13, to 12, and now 11. The other big countries were always going to protect themselves.”
The elections to the European Parliament are scheduled to take place next May.
The changes will also see the return of Kilkenny native Phil Prendergast to run for election in her old stomping ground. Ms Prendergast is currently a sitting MEP for Ireland South and a native of Ballyragget, where her parents Josie and Eddie Foley still live.
“I was born and reared in Ballyragget on the border of Kilkenny and Carlow, so I am obviously delighted that these are now included as these would be my natural townlands,” said Ms Prendergast.
Meanwhile, former Labour MEP Nessa Childers has yet to say whether she will run in Dublin or in Ireland South.