Belfast Telegraph

Election boundary changes would strengthen DUP's hand - if they're ever implemented

By Suzanne Breen

The original boundary changes proposed would have dramatically altered the political landscape in Northern Ireland. After last June's Westminster election, the UK's leading election prediction website, Electoral Calculus, combined those results, the 2014 council election results and the most recent census data.

That information was applied to the constituencies proposed in the Boundary Commission's 2016 blueprint.

Sinn Fein emerged as the largest Northern Ireland party at Westminster, gaining two seats while the DUP lost three. The proposed electoral map would have left Sinn Fein with nine MPs to the DUP's seven - with Lady Sylvia Hermon just holding on narrowly to North Down.

Two of Belfast's three seats would have been held by Sinn Fein - the new constituencies of Belfast North West and Belfast South West. Belfast East, which was left largely intact, would remain safely DUP.

But in the latest proposals, Belfast retains four constituencies and the DUP should retain its three seats.

The changes now on the table would see the DUP still the biggest party at Westminster with 10 seats to Sinn Fein's seven.

The DUP would secure North Belfast, East Belfast, South Belfast, Causeway, Mid Antrim, East Antrim, South Antrim, North Down, Mid Down and Upper Bann. Sinn Fein would take West Belfast, Mid Ulster, Foyle, West Tyrone, Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Newry and Armagh and South Down.

Jeffrey Donaldson's Lagan Valley seat disappears but he would likely run and win in Mid Down. Lady Sylvia Hermon is unlikely to hold onto the reshaped North Down which the DUP should take.

But Westminster sources last night told the Belfast Telegraph that the changes may never happen. Labour opposes the plan to cut the number of MPs to 600 as it stands to lose seats, and Tory backbenchers are also unhappy. "As a result, they may never happen and Northern Ireland may well end up keeping its 18 MPs," the source said.

Belfast Telegraph

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