Belfast Telegraph

Proposed constituency changes ‘blatantly advantage’ DUP, claims Sinn Fein

Northern Ireland is losing one constituency as part of wider Government plans to reduce the number of seats in the UK from 650 to 600.

Major changes to proposed electoral constituencies in Northern Ireland will leave thousands of nationalists without representation, Sinn Fein has claimed.

Party MLA Colm Gildernew described a radically redrawn electoral map of the region as “unacceptable” and alleged it favoured the DUP.

Northern Ireland is losing one constituency as part of wider Government plans to reduce the number of seats in the UK from 650 to 600.

How the reduction from 18 to 17 seats is achieved has become the source of political controversy.

The Boundary Commission’s first proposals, published in 2016, were heavily criticised by the Government’s kingmakers, the DUP, who claimed it could undermine the political stability of the region.

Analysts suggested the first version could see Sinn Fein overtake the DUP as the holder of the largest number of Westminster seats.

Sinn Fein said the changes that have been made to the second draft directly favour the DUP and claimed at least four constituencies could be without any nationalist representation at Westminster or Assembly level.

The revised proposals, which ditch a plan to cut the number of seats in Belfast from four to three, were published in January and put out for public consultation.

Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA Mr Gildernew criticised the changes as his party prepared to submit a formal submission to the Boundary Commission consultation.

“If these boundary changes go ahead, at least four Assembly constituencies will be left without any nationalist representation whatsoever,” he said.

“The Boundary Commission was established in 2016 with a remit to reduce the number of constituencies from 18 to 17 and to distribute the electorate in a fair and equitable way across the new constituencies.

“They published proposals in 2016 which went some way to achieving that.

“However, these were radically revised in the face of DUP opposition and nobody could argue that the new plan is fair, given that it so blatantly advantages the DUP at the expense of the nationalist electorate.

“Sinn Fein will be submitting our proposals to the Commission which set out a fair and equitable way forward in line with accepted good practice and the Commission’s own remit.

“We would urge members of the public to also make submissions and demand fairness in the electoral process.”

The Boundary Commission has insisted the changes were made impartially and without political interference.

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