Belfast Telegraph

Report DUP supports boundary changes premature, says Dodds

By Jane Scott

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds has said his party has yet to make a decision over proposals to redraw Northern Ireland's electoral map.

The North Belfast MP was responding to a report in The Sunday Times stating that the DUP had signalled it was reversing its opposition to boundary changes.

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

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

The revised map on changing the constituency boundaries here was published by the Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland in January and put out for public consultation. However, it was radically different from the commission's initial proposals, announced in 2016.

These were heavily criticised by the DUP, which claimed it could undermine political stability.

Analysts suggested the original version would have seen the DUP lose a seat to Sinn Fein in Belfast.

While the initial version could have seen Sinn Fein overtake the DUP as the holder of the largest number of Westminster seats, the second draft would likely see the DUP retain its pre-eminence in Parliament.

The latest revision ditches the plan to cut the number of seats in Belfast from four to three along with radical changes to the constituency landscape beyond the city. All the new named constituencies in the first draft are also gone.

Sinn Fein has reacted angrily to the new plan, claiming the proposals blatantly favour the DUP.

The party has also claimed that the changes would leave at least four constituencies without any nationalist representation at Westminster or Assembly level. Sinn Fein has been particularly critical of the plan to split the town of Dungiven across three different constituencies.

But when the DUP submitted its response to the public consultation back in March, Mr Dodds claimed Sinn Fein was trying to cover up for the fact that it had made no submission to the Boundary Commission during the two-year process.

The next step in the process will see the commission submit a final version of the map to the Government. MPs are set to vote on the overall UK package in the autumn.

The Sunday Times claimed yesterday that the revised blueprint "has now won DUP support".

While the party declined to comment specifically on this when contacted yesterday, Mr Dodds shared the article on his Twitter page along with the comment: "If you are interested in the facts however... we have yet to make our decision on this."

Mr Dodds previously described the second draft as "in no way perfect" but said it was more in line with the thinking of the majority of local parties, including the SDLP.

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

The commission said "the strength and depth of submissions" received during its consultation on the first set of plans "persuaded us".

Belfast Telegraph

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