A modest proposal to re-organise councils?

A proposal developed by Michael Moriarty and formed the background to a recent article by Jude Collins, which suggested a Nationalist plan B for the re-organisation of local councils. Something that may be particularly important if efforts to re-invigorate a local Assembly fail. He submitted detailed tables, but we don’t have anyway of displaying these coherently on Slugger. It may be possible to host them on Tony Bowden’s exellent NI Gov wiki site!Here’s a crude breakdown of the religious demographic of the proposed new council areas:

All Persons Catholic %Catholic

Antrim 229,064 46,579 20%
Armagh 324,183 184,568 57%
Belfast 363,187 176,125 48%
Coleraine 276,405 156,542 57%
Down 268,387 33,576 13%
Tyrone 224,028 140,022 63%

The green and orange map is self explanatory. You would need to provide a short discussion of the expanded Belfast The expanded Belfast includes the Dunmurry Cross DEA (District Electoral Area ) of Lisburn, the Antrim Line DEA and Valley ward of Newtownabbey and most of the South and West DEA’s of Castlereagh.

  • Shore Road Resident

    Would this be the same Mick Fealty who posted code below aking other people not to mess up the layout of his site?

  • Shore Road Resident

    Ah – thank you for removing that.
    Those of us using little portable computer screens can’t be expected to scroll in two dimensions you know.

  • smcgiff

    Excepting Antrim and Down your talking about massive minorities.

  • abucs

    You got my vote Michael.
    If things keep going the way they are (or rather not going)then you may have Blairs / Browns and Hains vote as well. But not just yet.

  • Shore Road Resident

    Yes, but now the screen is too wide again.

  • smcgiff

    Does anybody else think of Belfast in a Berlin type scenario post WW2? No? Okay.

  • fair_deal

    So instead of a sectarian carve up (but a ‘fair’ one) someone has come up with an unfair sectarian carve up hmmmmmm…

  • Shore Road Resident

    Just Jude Collins and whoever came up with this map, really.

  • smcgiff


    Where did you get that graphic showing NI under the different hues. I’d like to take a closer look.

  • abucs

    Hi smcgff,

    good point. Perhaps those minorities would more likely have power sharing though in a nationalist dominated council.

    Leave the Doc to rattle on with the faithful. The way he likes it anyway.

  • Shore Road Resident

    As I recall, Collins himself admitted it was Gerrymandering but basically added: so what?
    It must be occuring more and more to Mr Collins that he is going to die of old age in the United Kingdom. Or possibly that he is going to die of spite in the United Kingdom. But really, so what?

  • smcgiff

    Fair deal,

    How much different would the 7 or 15 council map look?

  • Stephen Copeland

    I don’t really get the boundaries, Mick. Does ‘Coleraine’ inclde all of Derry? The titles, despite being county names, clearly cannot be counties – Co Down has a lot mre Catholics than the figure shown.

    And Fermanagh?

  • smcgiff

    Also, looking at those figures – Tyrone is the only “council” I’d bet my house would overall vote to join the Republic.

  • abucs

    Yeah, it would dampen any breaking away from NI.

  • Stephen Copeland

    Obviously Michael Morriarty hasn’t given Mick the green light to print his whole analysis, which is a pity, because the story in the Daily Ireland was not detailed enough to understand exactly what is being proposed.

    Nonetheless, ignorance never gets in the way of opinion, so here goes. Regardless of whether there are 6 or 7 super-councils, those in the south and west of NI will form a coterminous block, and will comprise more than half of the area of NI. So what we will see is effective re-partition, with the three ‘southern’ and ‘western’ councils joining together for many purposes, to form a semi-autonomous region – a half-way house between the UK and the Republic. Over time, the links with the rest of the country will grow and deepen, and, regardless of the constitutional situation, the area will become more integrated with the rest of the country.

    This is, probably, the exact intention of the framers of the plan. To re-do the flawed partition settlement of 1922.

  • abucs

    I agree Stephen. On the proviso that plan A (power sharing devolution) fails.

    Enhanced powers for the councils, over time would allow these councils to align security, trade, employment, transport, health etc with the southern bodies to the point where they basically are in the Republic.

  • abucs


    “coterminous block” ??
    i’ll take yor word for it (literally).

  • Stephen Copeland


    Are we still even thinking that Plan A will work? I thought we’d moved on. Plan B comes into play in 2009 with the next council elections – I don’t see the DUP sitting around a table with Sinn Féin before then, do you?

    PS ‘coterminous’ – my spell checker doesn’t argue with it. And I bet David Ervine uses it …. 🙂

  • abucs

    No i don’t. i have to agree again.
    It’s good though to see the British having the balls to transform this state. Living up to their side of the unwritten agreement i guess.

    Hope Brown will continue the good work.

    I bow to your spell-checker and my own ignorance. 🙂

    bye all.

  • PaddyReilly

    We have here a problem of agreed terminology with regard to the word gerrymander, which correctly signifies the creation of improbably shaped boundaries in order to give an unfair electoral advantage to the party which supervises the drawing of boundaries: inevitably that party which is currently in power. This enables unpopular regimes to prolong their rule long beyond the time when they should have been booted out.

    Jude Collins, for some reason, felt the need to defend his proposals on this score, though the charge is ridiculous, since he is not currently in power, nor do his proposals give unfair advantage.

    As the current provincial boundaries are an example of the most overstretched gerrymander you could find, far worse in fact than the original architects could have imagined, any internal division which corrects this is not a gerrymander but an ungerrymander.

    The misuse of terminology here involves stigmatising as ‘gerrymander’ any division which takes into account sectarian geography in order to give people the sort of government they want, however fair or balanced it is.

    I have been unable to view any of the maps presented, so it’s difficult to give a fair evaluation of MM’s ideas. I have the impression that he is sticking too closely to historical boundaries, and so producing a system which is neither fully historical or fully cognizant of the wishes of the inhabitants. Also, I don’t see that he has done anything to accommodate the Glens of Antrim, a matter of grave concern, if you come from the Glens of Antrim.

    But I feel that we should be concentrating not on the exact boundaries, but on the institutions that come up with these boundaries. The problem as I see it is this. The Unionist vote declines by about 5% per decade and the Nationalist vote rises by about the same. Take for example the Unionist 1st pref vote in EU elections:-

    1979 61.1%
    1984 58%
    1989 56.9%
    1994 53%
    1999 52.3%
    2004 48.6%
    2009 ??
    2014 ??

    Consequently, in the same way that children outgrow their clothes shortly after you’ve bought them, administrative areas created for the purpose of accommodating Unionist/Nationalist needs will very soon be inadequate; if created using out of date statistics, they will be immediately inadequate, and in a few years we will be back to square one.

    For example, it seems that that due to overcrowding, the Nationalist population of Belfast is expanding into the neighbouring districts, particularly Lisburn and Antrim. What mechanism exists to cater for their needs? We need to be looking at tomorrow’s population, not yesterday’s.

    MM refers to “Catholics” and “Protestants”. This indicates that he is taking his data from the 2001 Census, which is already out of date, and would be further out of date before any such plan could be implemented.