Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein hit out at 'gerrymandering' electoral boundary changes

Sinn Fein MP Francie Molloy has described proposed changes to Northern Ireland's electoral boundaries as "gerrymandering to placate the DUP".

An official map obtained by the Press Association shows changes to electoral seats in Northern Ireland to facilitate a reduction from 18 seats to 17 - something which comes as part of an overall reduction in parliamentary seats from 650 to 600. 

Earlier this week, a map titled 2018 revised proposals was available for a period of time on the website for the Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland before being later deleted.

The new map includes the creation of a Causeway constituency on the north coast, which would merge parts of East Londonderry with parts of North Antrim and a section of East Antrim.

The remaining parts of East Londonderry - currently held by the DUP's Gregory Campbell - will be absorbed by West Tyrone and and Mid Ulster.

“The Boundary Commission proposed and consulted on new electoral boundaries in 2016 as part of an overall plan to reduce the number of MPs here from 18 to 17,” Mr Molloy said.

“Unsurprisingly, the DUP rejected the plan despite the fact that the proposals reflected the terms and remit under which the Boundary Commission was established."

A previous proposal made by the commission in 2016 aimed at cutting Belfast down from four seats to three seats, which drew the ire of the DUP.

"Sinn Fein warned at the time that any attempt via the Tory-DUP pact to subvert this process would represent an anti-democratic attempt to gerrymander electoral boundaries in that party’s favour," he said.

"These new proposals will also impact upon electoral boundaries for Assembly elections, ensuring gerrymandered constituencies reminiscent of those drawn up by the unionist one-party state decades ago."

Mr Molloy called on the Boundary Commission to issue a clarification on whether or not the map published on their website was accurate.

A spokesman for the Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland told PA: “During the preparation for our Revised Proposal consultation, which begins on 30 January 2018, the functionality of the website was being tested including the interactive map facility. The interactive map facility was accessed during this testing phase. The Commission will be proceeding with the Revised Consultation on 30 January as planned.”

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