Boundary proposals reversed in constituencies.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Boundary proposals reversed in constituencies. thumbnail The proposed new boundaries for Mid-Ulster.

MUCH of the major surgery to electoral boundaries in the Mid-Ulster and Fermanagh & South Tyrone constituencies has been reversed in the most recent proposals.

The Mid-Ulster constituency had been earmarked for the scrapheap in original proposals, but has now been granted a reprieve, while the proposed removal of Dungannon from Fermanagh & South Tyrone has been binned.

Now Mid-Ulster will remain and also move further north to include Garvagh, Kilrea and much of Dungiven, previously in the East Londonderry constituency, which itself will be altered to become a new 'Causeway' constituency.

Mid-Ulster will lose small areas at its southern tip to Fermanagh & South Tyrone, including parts of Clonoe, where the village will be split between it and Fermanagh & South Tyrone, as well as areas in around Donaghmore.

Fermanagh & South Tyrone had previously been earmarked to move much further west, cutting out Dungannon, Eglish, Killyman, Benburb, Moygashel, Moy and Tamnamore and putting them in a new Upper Bann and Blackwater constituency.

That proposal has been shelved, with the revised Fermanagh & South Tyrone,losing the Annaghmore, Derrylee, Mullenakil and Peatlands Park areas, with the former being slotted into Newry and Armagh and the latter three into Upper Bann.

It means Dungannon will no longer be split between several different parliamentary areas.

The proposed new boundaries, if voted through at Westminster, something which is believed to be far from certain, would also apply in any potential future Assembly elections.

While the previous proposals were thought to have favoured nationalists, the new suggestions have been more warmly received by unionists.

This led to claims by Sinn Fein Mid-Ulster MP Francie Molloy of "gerrymandering" by the independent Boundary Commission, which is in charge of making the proposals, and the Commission has rejected that allegation.

A spokesman said the Boundary Commission's remit was "strictly prescribed by statute", which provided safeguards to ensure that it was protected from political influence or interference.

"Accordingly, the work of the commission is carried out separately from politics and is their strictly objective assessment of evidence in accordance with the applicable statutory rules," said the spokesman.

And Fermanagh & South Tyrone MLA Rosemary Barton has stated her approval of the Boundary Commission's proposals for her own constituency.

Speaking to the Courier, the UUP woman said the report offers a "more practical and workable approach for the constituency".

She said: "Although this is not perfect, the principle objections to the previous proposals from people within Fermanagh & South Tyrone came from the Dungannon area. There was a feeling that, rather than being a main centre in a twin centre constituency, the Dungannon town was being split between three seats and their votes and interests would be very much peripheral in all three. While the Boundary Commission has moved a small section of the current constituency into Upper Bann and brought two small areas in from the current Mid-Ulster, Fermanagh & South Tyrone has remained largely unchanged.

"We don't believe there was any requirement to move areas in or out of the constituency as it fell within the required electorate numbers, however, maybe the Boundary Commission believe they had to make some change. I'm pleased that they appear to have largely taken the Ulster Unionist Party suggestions on board regarding Fermanagh & South Tyrone." The revised proposals will be the subject of an eight-week consultation, ending on 26th March.

The commission will submit its final recommendations to the secretary of state no later than 1st October before Westminster decides whether to approve or reject them.


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