Belfast Telegraph

Dungiven constituency plan 'smacks of gerrymandering, because nothing else makes any sense'

By Donna Deeney

Many places in Northern Ireland could be described as divided - but rarely has one split into three.

The Co Londonderry town of Dungiven, with its population of just over 3,000, is facing something of an identity crisis.

The overwhelmingly nationalist town could see residents voting in three different constituencies if proposed changes to the electoral boundaries are adopted.

The latest Boundary Commission proposal has one half of Main Street in West Tyrone and the other in Mid Ulster.

Meanwhile, residents living along Drumrane Road on the edge of town would have to select their candidate from those in a third constituency of Glenshane, if the plans go ahead.

Pupils at St Patrick's High School on the Curragh Road would be taught in the school building in West Tyrone, but at lunchtime they would be in the canteen across the street in Mid Ulster. The GAA fraternity in Dungiven is facing a similar crisis - the Kevin Lynch Club would be located in West Tyrone along with Derry's Owenbeg Centre of Excellence, while the members and players would be drawn from the Mid Ulster and Glenshane constituencies.

Asking a Co Derry team to show any affinity with Tyrone is, as GAA fans know, beyond the pale. There is genuine confusion, annoyance and anger in the town as people struggle to understand the logic behind the proposals. Friends Philomena Farren and Maureen Donaghy live within a stone's throw of each other and visit often.

But under the plans, Philomena would vote in West Tyrone while Maureen's polling station would be in Mid Ulster.

Philomena said: "I know nothing about West Tyrone and I can bet they know nothing about Dungiven and won't be too interested in it, but I am expected to vote for someone from there. It is ridiculous. How do they expect people here to get in touch with politicians in West Tyrone? I couldn't even tell you exactly where it is."

Maureen added: "Philomena lives across the road from me and it is likely that if there is something that I would need sorted she will have the same problem, but I wouldn't know who to talk to or who my MP would be.

"I don't know who thought this was a good idea to split up Dungiven, but they would need to think again."

Colin O'Kane had clearly given the matter a lot of thought. He said: "For the whole community to be split into three is totally wrong and a nonsense.

"At the end of the day you have to face facts and this smacks of gerrymandering, because nothing else makes any sense." The proposals have been a hot topic of conversation among Pawel Oprych's friends.

Pawel said: "I am from Poland, but I have lived here for four years and I have many friends from Dungiven and I am interested in politics, so I do understand what is being talked about.

"It seems to me that this is not a good idea for Dungiven or for Northern Ireland. My friends say they don't need these changes and they are not happy, and they have signed the papers saying they are not happy."

Belfast Telegraph

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