The electoral boundary committee was established by the Minister of State on 13 December 2017. It was provided with its terms of reference, which were set out. Its report on 13 June 2013 set out the boundaries in a clear and independent manner. A boundary committee is an independent body charged with setting out the boundaries for elections. For clarity, section 28 of the Local Government Act 1991 provides that "A boundary committee shall be independent in the performance of its functions." Under section 32(2), the Act states: "The committee shall if so requested prepare and furnish to the Minister a report in writing which shall include its recommendations". This was done. The Act goes on to say "the Minister shall publish the report and shall have regard to it". The word "regard" is not meaningless.
The committee very helpfully pointed out by way of additional background that the last such local electoral area boundary committee was established in November 2012. It reported on 29 May 2013, 12 months in advance of the 2014 local elections. The recommendations of the report of that committee were accepted in full by the then Minister and statutory instruments giving them effect were made.
On 11 January the Minister of State signed a statutory instrument in which he deliberately changed the boundaries recommended by the independent boundary committee for County Wexford in respect of the upcoming local elections. This has created farcical situations in County Wexford. For example, people from Oilgate, some of whom live only 4 km from Wexford town, will now have to drive 40 miles north, through Enniscorthy, to attend civic offices in Gorey for help. People who only live 1.5 miles south of Enniscorthy town, who vote in the town, and who consider themselves to live in its suburbs are now being told that they are Gorey people. They now have to go to Gorey rather than to the town where they do their shopping, where their families live, where their kids go to school and where they have spent their entire lives.
Why did the Minister of State make these changes? Why did he take the electoral area of Kilmuckridge, which an independent boundary committee recommended be an electoral area of Enniscorthy municipal district, and attach it to Gorey? The committee was made up of experts and it spent time considering this. I have no doubt that the committee wanted Gorey to have ten councillors, but it certainly would not have done it in this way. The committee took the areas of Ferns and Kilbora out of the Gorey municipal district and put them into that of Enniscorthy. These areas are halfway along the road between Enniscorthy and Gorey towns. I have no doubt that if the committee wanted Gorey to have ten councillors, it would have left Ferns in Gorey. It certainly would not have done it this way.
I cannot express the level of disbelief and anger felt by people, especially people in the south of Kilmuckridge municipal district. Glenbrien is pretty much a suburb of Enniscorthy. The people of Glenbrien were bemused when I was out there two weeks ago trying to explain to them that they are now Gorey people. The people in Oilgate are just laughing at the idea that they are part of a town they have no connections to. There might have been some rationale for Oilgate to be put into Wexford town, because parts of it are closer to Wexford town, but most people in Oilgate do their business in Enniscorthy. Putting Oilgate into Gorey, however, makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
I want a clear explanation as to why the Minister of State did this, because it was a personal request of his rather than a recommendation of the Department. I am curious as to why he sought this change.