There may be some tinkering at the edges

Last word goes to Chris Thornton, who notes:

A Local Government Boundary Commissioner is expected to be appointed to look at the questions in detail. The commissioner will have to consider how the 582 wards in Northern Ireland should fit in the new council jigsaw. Local government boundaries are normally reviewed every 10 to 15 years, but the changes proposed today are the most sweeping for a generation. Public hearings on the changes are expected, but the commissioner will have to reach a decision before 2009, when the next council elections are due.

The make-up of most of the new councils will be obvious, but when it comes to determining the edges, the commissioner will have to wrestle with a host of considerations, including social connections, geography and population. But orange and green politics will also enter the equation. Since there are expectations that there will be three rural councils with a nationalist majority and three rural councils with a unionist majority, particular attention will be paid to the shape of the new Greater Belfast council. Nationalists could see Twinbrook and Poleglass brought into the new council as extensions of West Belfast, while unionists may want to see sections of what is now Castlereagh council brought into Belfast.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

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