Carve-up of constituency boundaries is clumsy and a threat to unionism says DUP's Nigel Dodds
A shake-up of Northern Ireland's political map threatens to damage unionism, the DUP has warned.
In its first formal response to proposals redrawing Parliamentary boundaries, the party accused the Boundary Commission of "taking a machete" to some constituencies.
Deputy leader Nigel Dodds also said many major cities and towns have been cut adrift from their natural hinterlands.
Almost three months of consultations are now underway into the plans - with revised proposals expected next year.
In the country's capital city, only East Belfast remains relatively intact while the north, south and west are being redrawn to form the new electoral areas of North West Belfast and South West Belfast.
But the names of other existing constituencies including East Londonderry, North Antrim, Lagan Valley and Mid Ulster disappear, while six new constituencies would be created, provisionally called Dalriada, Glenshane, North Tyrone, Upper Bann and Blackwater, West Antrim and West Down.
North Belfast MP Mr Dodds said: "These changes will represent the single biggest change in boundaries from the 1983 elections. We need to make sure everyone is fairly represented.
"However, these Boundary Commission proposals will have a detrimental effect on unionist representation.
"The proposals do not take into consideration the natural hinterlands of many major cities and towns (which is) something of particular concern.
"The proposals have simply done away with a constituency in Belfast as North, South and West Belfast constituencies will be redrawn to form North West Belfast and South West Belfast, with the make-up of East Belfast dramatically changed.
"A machete has also been taken to four other constituencies to create six new constituencies.
He added, however: "Of course this will be a very long process and previous boundary changes have shown that. We are now in the middle of a consultation process and it is important everyone has an opportunity to respond.
"It is of vital importance that people make their responses to the Boundary Commission and that they attend public hearings in their areas."
Public hearings are to take place in Tullyglass Hotel, Ballymena on October 5, Silverbirch Hotel, Omagh on October 11, Ramada Hotel Shaw's Bridge, Belfast on October 20 and Seagoe Hotel, Portadown on October 25. There will be three sessions at each venue, running from 10am-1pm, 2pm-4pm and 6pm-8pm.
A consultation form is available online at www.bcni2018.uk