Belfast Telegraph

Four new constituencies for NI in parliamentary boundary shake-up

By Staff Reporter

The final proposal to reduce the number of parliamentary constituencies in Northern Ireland from 18 to 17 has been published by the Boundary Commission.

The new constituencies have been drawn up to give each constituency approximately the same size of population.

The redrawing of parliamentary constituencies is taking place across the UK, as part of a plan to equalise - as far as possible - constituency sizes, and to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600.

Our map shows the new boundaries, and the names of the new constituencies.

Thirteen of the existing constituencies will retain their existing names, though each will have some changes to their boundaries to adjust the population size included.

Five constituency names will disappear: North Antrim, Lagan Valley, Strangford, East Londonderry and West Tyrone.

Four new constituencies will be created to replace them: Sperrin, Causeway, Mid Antrim and Mid Down.

Currently the smallest constituency is East Antrim with 59,658 electors on December 2015, while the largest is Upper Bann with 80,218.

Under the Boundary Commission plan, the smallest would become Upper Bann, with 69,795 people eligible to vote, and the largest Mid Down, with 77,767.

The boundary review has been under way for five years, and the proposals have gone though extensive public consultation.

The final recommendations will now be placed before Parliament for approval.

Madam Justice Denise McBride, deputy chair of the Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland, said: "The commission is grateful to all those who took the time and trouble to respond.

"We have sought, where possible, to try and accommodate the wide range of views and proposals presented whilst remaining within the constraint of the statutory criteria imposed upon the 2018 review."

Elections expert Nicholas Whyte said on social media that the changes represented "potentially interesting musical chairs" for the DUP, which presently has 10 seats at Westminster. He suggested that the boundary changes have "effectively abolished" one of their seats in Parliament.

The DUP's Westminster leader, North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds, said: "The party has engaged with the commission throughout this process making detailed submissions on a ward by ward basis at each stage.

"We note the final recommendations have been published.

"We will now study these in detail."

Proposed changes to boundaries across the UK could also have a far-reaching impact on the makeup of future UK governments.

The planned new boundaries would have had a significant impact at the 2017 general election had they been in place at the time, analysis commissioned by the BBC, ITV News, Sky News and the Press Association found.

Professors Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher, from the Elections Centre at Plymouth University, found the Tories would have been left with a working majority of 23 once Sinn Fein's MPs - who do not take their seats - were taken into account.

Downing Street said the proposals, which give each MP roughly the same number of constituents, would ensure there is "fair and equal" representation for voters.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will be the most high-profile casualty under the proposed reforms, with his Islington North seat being wiped out.

But it is expected that he will take over one of the redrawn seats in the area.

The constituency changes, if approved, will not take effect until the next general election.

But they may face strong opposition from sitting MPs.

Vowing to fight the changes, Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement, said: "These final boundary recommendations are nothing but an undemocratic power grab by this Tory Government.

"With the workload of MPs set to rise after Brexit, with thousands of pieces of important legislation expected to come through Parliament, it would be utterly ludicrous to go ahead with these boundary changes."

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph