Barking Mad Gerrymanders

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Local government reforms are running up against it again, in The House of Lords this time of all places, Ulster Unionist Peer and former leader Lord Empey has described the proposed local government arrangements as “ one of Stormont’s worst reforms” and warned that local government elections planned for 2014 are on a knife edge in terms of the amount of time available to prepare for them.  He was speaking following a debate in the House of Lords on Tuesday evening, on a proposal to give the Secretary of State powers to appoint a District Electoral Areas Commissioner, charged with drawing up proposals to set new DEA boundaries for the Super Councils, these DEAs  are the areas individual Councillors cover and can determine to an extent the make up of the council.  In his press release based on the speech Lord Empey stated,

It is clear it will be next summer, at the earliest, before this work can be completed.  Indeed it is likely that it could take even longer meaning that the time to prepare for these elections will be very short – perhaps only a few months.  Given that this process started in 2001, and it will be 2015 before the new Councils take power, it will have taken 14 years to reorganise local government for a mere 1.8 million people!  This is hardly Stormont’s finest hour.”

Lord Empey then went on to described some of the proposals for the new Councils as ‘barking mad’ pointing out that Northern Ireland was being treated different from the rest of the UK, because the Local Government Boundaries Commissioner was legally prohibited from taking ‘local identity’ into account in drawing up the new areas,

In what other country would ‘local identity’ be not considered as a material factor in determining the most appropriate arrangements for local government? As a result of these proposals which were developed and led by the DUP and Sinn Fein we have an unwanted merger of Fermanagh and Omagh Councils, a bizarre proposal to link Strabane Council area which includes Castlederg with Londonderry City, when it should be joined with adjacent Omagh, and the outrageous proposals for Belfast where Ballybeen and the Dundonald area will be part of Lisburn!”

The proposals for Belfast are nothing short of a gerrymander and will leave the City constrained by boundaries fixed over 100 years ago, rather than boundaries which reflect the City of the 21st Century.”

Lords Kilclooney, Browne and Morrow  disagreed and give their full backing to the 11 council proposals, although they also expressing strong concerns that the timescale was difficult.  In reply on behalf of the government  Baroness Randerson indicated that once appointed the Commissioner could take up to a year to decide the new boundaries.

If the position of Commissioner has to be advertised it is unlikely any appointment will take place before the new year, presuming that appointment goes smoothly, it could then take a year deciding the DEA boundaries as each area needs to host an inquiry, that takes us up to early 2014, with the Euro elections set for 6th Junes, and nominations opening 6 weeks or so before hand.  That gives parties weeks, not months, to reconstitute associations select candidates, agents etc. for entirely new councils.

Once again RPA is proving to be the most farcical show in town, but of course it dosn’t make as entertaining viewing as finger pointing and name calling, a little something like the shape of local government for the rest of our liftime dosn’t really compete so long as the big two are in agreement.

 

 

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    Exchanges in Grand Committee – 20 Nov 2012

    Baroness Randerson: “I am delighted that the Northern Ireland Executive and the Northern Ireland Assembly have now agreed to move forward with local government reorganisation and that an order setting out the boundaries and wards for the 11 new councils has been agreed by the Northern Ireland Assembly. The order is expected to be made by the Northern Ireland Department of the Environment before the end of November.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    Are we on mission impossible?

    Baroness Randerson: The noble Lord [Empey] is right to say that the targets here are ambitious, but I emphasise that they are not set down by the Northern Ireland Office. We are following the timescales set by the Executive in Northern Ireland and we are anxious to support them in their ambition to introduce reforms in local government in time for 2015, when councils have their powers fully conferred on them.

    We accept that our success in this depends on joint work with the Northern Ireland Executive. We are working closely with them. Our role is to make arrangements on the election administration and the Executive will need to bring in legislation on the operation of the shadow councils.

  • Neil

    Lord Empey then went on to described some of the proposals for the new Councils as ‘barking mad

    If only Empey had such foresight when he was running around setting up gimmicky pacts with Davy ‘decent paramilitary’ Ervine and latterly UCUNF then maybe the UUP wouldn’t be quite so impotent.

    Editor *Neil, play the ball not the man*

  • PaddyReilly

    Northern Ireland is the quintessential gerrymander, still fully operative today, and so for its beneficiaries to complain is the rankest of hypocrisy. What business is it of Unionists to complain about Fermanagh, Omagh and Strabane? These areas should have been bestowed on the Free State a century ago.

    The way to undo the gerrymander, and therefore bring about stable governance, is to give both sides powers of division. Unionists created the boundaries of the province: therefore let Nationalists have the task of creating the local government boundaries. If Unionists do not like the result, then we could always swap over and do it the other way round.

  • http://www.wordpress.ianjamesparsley.com IJP

    Can’t disagree with any of what Sir Reg has said there.

    Form was always meant to follow function. The DUP/SF, for their own reasons, went the other way around. Quite why an SDLP Minister is carrying through their dirty work is beyond me.

    Paddy

    All nation states are a gerrymander, of course.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “Unionists created the boundaries of the province”

    Paddy, the boundary was a compromise; it was agreed by London, Dublin and Belfast in 1925.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “Quite why an SDLP Minister is carrying through their dirty work is beyond me.”

    Because the responsible minister just happens to be from the SDLP, IJP.

  • http://www.wordpress.ianjamesparsley.com IJP

    Nevin

    Put another way: if the SDLP Minister is carrying out the implementation of a policy he doesn’t believe in, why is he still in the Executive?

    I appreciate that’s a slightly separate issue, but I really wouldn’t be hanging around to attempt to implement this. Talk about a hospital pass…

  • PaddyReilly

    The boundary was no compromise: it represents the maximum Unionist land-grab which could last for any period of time.

    The treaty implied, but did not guarantee, the holding of plebiscites. Consequently the Unionists made sure that their police force had such a tight hold on the areas under dispute that the London government would not dare to proceed with this measure. The presiding judge of the Boundary Commission tried to have them, but was told they would not be possible by the British Government.

    As a further consequence, the democratic movement in the disputed region could only hope to start the ball rolling by killing policemen: part-time policemen, full-time policemen, retired policemen, in the hope that eventually there would be such loss of morale that even Unionist policemen would accept the inevitability of majority rule.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    IJP, I’ve directly and indirectly thrown a few hospital passes to Ministers but I’ve sometimes given them advance warning. If they chose to ignore the danger signals …

  • Reader

    PaddyReilly: The boundary was no compromise: it represents the maximum Unionist land-grab which could last for any period of time.
    The boundary chosen left half a million people on the wrong side of the border. The only nationalist proposal at the time was twice as bad, leaving a million people on the wrong side of the border. You might feel that nationalism would have gone for a compromise if you could travel back in time to give them the benefit of hindsight. But remember, the Dial did reject an adjustment of the border in their favour in 1925 because they wanted everything. Could you have convinced them that Northern Ireland was going to last so long as it has?

  • Framer

    Every national frontier in the world represents the maximum land grab available at the time.

    However the Northern Ireland frontier is now one of the oldest and longest-lived in Europe proving its worth.

    For EU members of course borders are eroding and atrophying, and, in the words of John Hume (St.) this is what Europe is about.

  • Drumlins Rock

    ok, Paddy you can’t rewrite 100 yr of history, now lets look at the current proposals.

    The proposals will give Nationalists control of “Belfast” but as i have said elsewhere to gerrymander this result it continues to chop off 30-40% of the natural city, probably relegating the city to 3rd city status in Ireland and a thrid rate city in the UK.

  • PaddyReilly

    The only nationalist proposal at the time was twice as bad, leaving a million people on the wrong side of the border.

    Total rubbish. For a start there were barely 600,000 Protestants in Northern Ireland at the time, it was only after the war their population rose closer to the vaunted million.

    It was about 1908 when the House of Lords examined the question and concluded that the Bann was the fairest border. The Unionists held out for 6 counties. The treaty agreed to the rectification of the border. The Unionists, having grabbed everything they wanted, determined to hold onto it, using the slogan “Not an inch”. By force of arms they succeeded, thereby ruining the treaty party in the Free State, and guaranteeing that all future opposition to them would be violent.

  • PaddyReilly

    chop off 30-40% of the natural city

    The ‘natural city’ only means the latest Unionist proposal to benefit Unionists. There is no rule that says a city has to continue expanding to include adjacent urbanised areas. In Dublin there is a proposal to put Tallaght under a separate authority. In England Slough, though adjacent to London and urbanised, remains in Berkshire, and Gravesend in Kent.

    And you can undo 100 year of history. Just adopt the principle, if Unionists draw the provincial boundary, then Nationalists are responsible for the local government one.

  • SK

    “The proposals will give Nationalists control of “Belfast” but as i have said elsewhere to gerrymander this result it continues to chop off 30-40% of the natural city”

    ________

    So for once it’s a unionist complaining about arbitrary boundaries. Now that is a novelty.

    This “natural city” you speak of wouldn’t happen to comprise a unionist majority, would it?

  • PaddyReilly

    But remember, the Dial did reject an adjustment of the border in their favour in 1925 because they wanted everything.

    Another blatant lie. The judge in the Boundary Commission could only make trifling changes because he was not allowed to hold referenda. He proposed a border adjustment which took almost as much territory away from the Free State (in Donegal) as it bestowed on it (tiny bits of Co. Armagh and Fermanagh). When one third of Northern Ireland’s population was Nationalist, he proposed a rectification comprising about 0.5% of the population.

  • weidm7

    Hi PaddyReilly, it’s possible the original writer was mistaken or ill-informed rather than telling a ‘blatant lie’. It could be either of course, but would you not agree that assuming good faith would lead to a better discussion atmosphere and is thus preferable?

  • aquifer

    So the rates from Forestside Shopping Centre Belfast and the votes from DUP voting Belfast workers go to Lisburn.

    The DUP is baling out of Belfast taking the cash.

  • PaddyReilly

    it’s possible the original writer was mistaken or ill-informed

    This is true. But there is apparently a great deal of misinformation around about the border commission. Someone along the line has distorted the truth. In (Scottish) Gaelic it is customary to say, mas breug bhuam, is breug chugham, If it’s a lie from me, it’s a lie (told) to me.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Ok, this is a discussion on the boundaries of 2014 not 1914, they will be discussed to within the inch in the next few years, but not changes an inch.

    The 2014 boundaries however are not fully in force yet, and there is a small chance some rational thinking will prevail and the whole thing dumped.

    As for natural boundaries, try google earth, draw a line round the extent of the urban build-up of Belfast. Then look at if any of those areas are big enough and have a strong enough seperate identity to become a local authority on their own. Carrickfergus, Bangor and Ards certainly have a strong identity and are seperate enough not to be included. Lisburn although closer just makes it too, although some would argue otherwise. Newtownabbey and Castlereagh are Belfast, don’t try to fool anyone otherwise, Even the Glengormely and Dundonald proprtions have lost their seperate identity, becoming urban villages.

    To carve these sections off the city and lump them with rural councils is BARKING MAD, to put it midly and the most blatant Gerrymander in my lifetime. What is worse the DUP are the ones pushing it through. It stinks to high heaven and is a massive threat to Belfasts future.

  • The Raven

    I just realised from this thread: there’s nothing beyond Glengormley!

    This thread is indeed about boundaries, but please don’t anyone lose sight of the incredible waste of money, time and effort this exercise is. There are no transfers of substantive power from central to local, other than Planning, which they just want rid of. SOME carparks…some cast-off functions…nothing more.

    No rate-payer will save any money in the long term, remembering of course, that the councils get less than half of that bill you pay each month/year.

    It’s still not too far down the road to engage in rational thought.

    (Silly me…)

  • PaddyReilly

    Oh well. Commiserate with the City of London, where the city boundaries are fixed in the time of King Richard the Lion-heart.

    But of course the offer stands: include Donegal, Monaghan and Cavan in the province, and you can have Castlereagh in Belfast.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Paddy, grow up.

    Raven, I agree completely, have focused on the costs previously, Reg obviously is most concerned with Belfast, there are just so many holes is the in whole thing it is shocking.

    The media just sit on their arse being spoon fed by to legions in the Stormont office, my 6 yr old niece could see the figures don’t add up. Have to give it to Nolan though he did have Peter Weir steam rollered when he put them to him once, but it died at that (I wonder was Stephen told not to go there?).

    The new councils wont work
    will destroy local identity
    are gerrymandered to suit the big two
    will have LESS power than they do now
    and most importantly
    WILL COST RATE PAYERS MUCH MUCH MORE !!

  • tiger feet

    Concerning the Belfast Metropolitan Urban Area here is a map.

    Drumlins Rock is certainly accurate about Newtownabbey and Castlereagh simply being geographically part of Belfast.

    It wouldn’t surprise me though if the powers that be kept gerrymandering Belfast City Council to ensure that neither nationalists nor unionists ever have overall control in perpetuity.

  • PaddyReilly

    On a point of order what is being complained of is not a gerrymander. A gerrymander is essentially an area where the creators have taken outrageous liberties with design to ensure that an irregular border gives a disproportionate influence to the faction which devised the artificial area. Good examples of this are the picture at the top the article and the borders of Northern Ireland.

    The complaint here is of a rotten borough, where the old borders have been retained when the population has moved on. But Belfast is nothing like Old Sarum yet. And curiously, I didn’t hear any complaints in 1972 when the current arrangement came into being.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Great Map Tiger,
    shows the city limits perfectly, Bangor & Carrick are still seperate enough to keep their own identity, Lisburn is a little bit more debatable! but its still seperate enough not to be worth the hassle! but there absolutly NO LOGICAL reason to carve off Castlereagh and Newtownabbey to rural areas, apart from the obvious political ones.

    You really are grasping straws Paddy.

    wikipedia definition-
    “In the process of setting electoral districts, gerrymandering is a practice that attempts to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating geographic boundaries to create partisan or incumbent-protected districts.”

    Oxford dictionaries-
    “manipulate the boundaries of (an electoral constituency) so as to favour one party or class.”

    The word has a much more general meaning now, and the councils proposals fit it perfectly.

  • Politico68

    The boundary chosen left half a million people on the wrong side of the border. The only nationalist proposal at the time was twice as bad, leaving a million people on the wrong side of the border. You might feel that nationalism would have gone for a compromise if you could travel back in time to give them the benefit of hindsight. But remember, the Dial did reject an adjustment of the border in their favour in 1925 because they wanted everything. Could you have convinced them that Northern Ireland was going to last so long as it has?

    There has never been anything like one million Unionist people in the North, the 2001 census shows 895,000. The 2011 census after 11th December will show approx 930,000, if even that.

  • Politico68

    ‘As for natural boundaries, try google earth, draw a line round the extent of the urban build-up of Belfast. Then look at if any of those areas are big enough and have a strong enough seperate identity to become a local authority on their own. Carrickfergus, Bangor and Ards certainly have a strong identity and are seperate enough not to be included. Lisburn although closer just makes it too, although some would argue otherwise. Newtownabbey and Castlereagh are Belfast, don’t try to fool anyone otherwise, Even the Glengormely and Dundonald proprtions have lost their seperate identity, becoming urban villages.’

    Cities in terms of their councils are just not structured that way mate. Dublin has a population within pelting distance of 1.1 million people but the the ‘city’ council only reps 500,000. I am 5 miles exactly from the city centre and I am in a completely different council area. Craigavon and Armagh councils will also come under Nationalist control after the next council elections and Antrim is heading in the same direction.

  • SK

    Cities in terms of their councils are just not structured that way mate. Dublin has a population within pelting distance of 1.1 million people but the the ‘city’ council only reps 500,000.

    Nail on head. The Dublin 12/Dublin 24 postcode regions represent a fault-line between Dublin City and Dublin County councils, yet that no perceptible “separate identity” exists amongst the people there. It’s the same on the northside- Fingal isn’t even a real place.

  • SK

    ” Craigavon and Armagh councils will also come under Nationalist control after the next council elections and Antrim is heading in the same direction.”

    _________

    And that is the real problem here for some people.

  • Drumlins Rock

    politico, the 1,000,000 protestants were on the whole island, with the only acceptable border to nationalists being the Irish Sea, the 1911 census has over 1,100,000 protestants. A quarter of the population.

    Is the Dublin plan the one we really want to follow? Even it has a regional authority that covers all the urban councils.

    As for the other councils, with the inclusion of Banbridge the new ABC Supercouncil will be unionist, Armagh is already split 50/50 for quite a while I believe. That is the DUP side of the bargain probably. Personally I would rather see local councils that reflect local identity and not simply be a carve up between the big two parties.

    If it was simply the amount of orange and green on a map then this is a unionist gain, with Limavady Armagh & Moyle turning orange, in return Belfast will turn Green from Grey, a rejig of the wards would have brought the same outcome. I’m probably not popular with Unionists in those 3 council areas for opposing this plan! I just believe it is wrong for everybody no matter what side they are on. So ask your Ballycastle, Armagh and Dungiven friends do they want to be in a DUP council area, they might not be so keen.

  • Kevsterino

    What about the guy from Belfast who bought a house Dundonald because he didn’t want to live in “Belfast”, per se. Is it right to put him under the Belfast council’s jurisdiction without his consent?

  • Kevsterino

    *in* Dundonald

  • Politico68

    Ok, if you were to transfer 15 wards to Belfast from those parts of Castlreagh and Nwtnabby that were closest to the city it would increase the council population by 40,000 (72%U, 24%N). Bringing BCC pop to 317,000 (51% U, 44% N). These figures are based on 2001 census stats. To bring them up to date(2011), the breakdown would be; population – 320,000 (49.5% U, 46% N). At best Unionists might have a one seat advantage over nats, but alliance would still hold the balance of power. In any event, nationalists would take control with 9yrs, if my calculations are correct.

  • Politico68

    Drumlins, the 1.1 million u refer to do were spread over the island so if the boundary had have been drawn to seperate East Derry, Antrim, Mid/North Down and North Armagh. U would have had an 80/20 split in favour of Unionists in the new area which would now be 70/30. You would have had 350,000 Protetstants Lost in the awful republic.

  • Reader

    PaddyReilly: Another blatant lie.
    Do you deny it was “adjustment of the border in their favour” or do you deny my statement of the Dáil’s motives for refusing the adjustment? The alternative motives are less pure and less savoury.
    By the way, according to Jonathan Bardon’s “History of Ulster”, the transfer involved 1.8% (net) of the population and 3.7% (net) of the land. Including Crossmaglen.

  • PaddyReilly

    But remember, the Dial did reject an adjustment of the border in their favour in 1925 because they wanted everything.

    Yes, this is totally untrue. The treaty party had put great store by the Boundary Commission and imagined that, with a third of the Six Counties’ population favouring the Free State, and a majority of those living West of the Bann, they would be augmented accordingly. Instead the result was such a travesty—from a gerrymander to a super-gerrymander—that it would represent no gain at all.

    But you would hardly sign a treaty setting up a boundary commission to rectify the border, if you rejected the possibility of a border at all. You appear to be confusing the views of the treaty party (in power in 1925) with those of the anti-treaty party.

  • tiger feet

    @ Politico68, SK and PaddyReilly.

    I’m pretty sure that some Ulster Unionists were coming up with such justifications in the 1960s.

    How does it feel to be the bad guys and the villains of the piece?

    I guess it feels pretty much the same as it felt for them at that time, truth be told.

    So now you know.

  • Politico68

    tiger feet? WTF are u talking about. That post might make sense in ur head but I am lost.

  • tiger feet

    Also if Newtownabbey and Castlereagh are not included in Belfast City Council should I murder someone? I need your advice.

    Please answer yes or no.

  • Politico68

    Tiger feet, the answer is no, unless if it means that the people u are stuck with deny u ur civil liberities to the extent that u are frozen into a miserable existence of second class citizenship and fear for the future of your family and your children. In that case i would deem you to be merely defending urself.

  • tiger feet

    @Politico68

    I agree with your answer, but the distinction you then draw is errent.

    I don’t disagree that nationalists feared for the future or their family or their children circa early 1970s though, but so did unionists, and that was why both sets of people ended up committing murder.

    Trust means fairness. By all means argue for excluding Newtownabbey and Castlereagh from Belfast, but don’t pretend it’s any better, or less sectarian, than campaigning for ratepayer franchise in the 60s.

    Truth and honesty.

  • Politico68

    Tiger Feet, i never argued for the exclusion of castle and Abbey. I simply pointed that the urban sprawl of a metropolis does not merit inclusion within the city limits simply because it exists. In fact I outlined above a scenario where parts of castle and abbey might be included on the basis of their proximity to the city centre. Personally it is of no interest to me where the boundary lies, I am simply intrigued by the political motivations. Belfast has had a Unionist majority forever. Now it is Nationalist and all of a sudden we need to move the boundaries? In fairness, it seems a bit obvious whats behind the call. No matter how many times u draw new lines on a map, it looks as if the growth in the Catholic population will continue long after u have run out of ink.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Politico, it isn’t all of a sudden, it has taken 12 years to date! and the last boundaries were put in place over 40 years ago, local government always evolves with time.

    40 years ago I am guessing there was an attempt to contain Belfast so that it did not totally out weigh the other 25 new councils. As well as an attempt to create a ‘community’ in the new town of Newtonabbey. I think the rationale that existed then has either failed or become obsolete.

    Belfast is only getting a small adjustment to its boundaries in this proposal. So its poulation will bocome much closer to the new average council area, diluting its influence as lead council. But as the only substancial co-urabation their is no reason why it cannot increase in proportion to the other councils poulations.

    As for Newtonabbey, an extremely urban area that undoubtly looks to Belfast, will now have most of its services provide in Antrim town, or Carrickfergus, with an extrme town and country mix.

    Castlereagh is much the same, just think ur looking straight down on city hall, but have to go to Lisburn to access council services. Absolutely no logic to it, can you show me one?

  • Politico68

    Will the eleven new proposed councils not have an equal population?

  • PaddyReilly

    Grow up, Paddy

    I’m afraid that if there is an age of reason at which you come to see that Fermanagh lies to the North of Donegal, I have not reached it yet. When you get hot under the collar at the thought of someone in Castle having to go Lisburn to sort out their bins, spare a thought for the cancer sufferer in Muff who has to bypass Altnagelvin and go to Dublin.

    It is hard to see what was going through the head of the creators of the 1972 Local Government boundaries, but at a guess I would say they had decided that NI on its own was the equivalent of an English County, so what was needed was a series of local offices dealing with streetcare which would be optimally accessible to the people using them, usually in the nearest town of any size.

    The creation of Castlereagh struck me as a bit odd, at the time: I suppose they had their reasons. Newtownabbey has never been part of Belfast, and is obviously better served by local offices. Cities work best if you do not direct unnecessary traffic from outlying suburbs through them. The new proposals are simply the reversal of the previous principle by the application of Tory parsimony. With any luck they will never come to fruition, like the new constituencies.

    Plenty of cities are prevented from expanding by vested interests. New York could not possibly incorporate its urban extension, because it all lies in different states, whose separate existence is protected by the American constitution. And the Detroit area spans an international border.

  • Politico68

    Drumlins, I admit 12 yrs is a long time, but such is the nature of politics in an abnormal political society.