Northern Ireland to lose two MPs…

According to this breaking news story on the Irish Times site… No details as to which two will go, but it will certainly make 2015 a great deal more interesting…

  • This is the result of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill 2010, which was tagged onto the bill for the AV vote.

    The total MPs is being reduced from 600 to 650, early estimates had NI losing 3 but looks like it will be 2. Constituency boundaries will be redrawn, along strict population lines (all electorates bar Western Isles, Orkneys, Isle of Wight) must have between 95 and 105 per cent of the new quota (which is 76,600 voters) – which means that the traditional electoral wards as we know them will change dramatically (how much in the North isn’t clear but it could be quite a lot).

    The focus when the AV bill was going through the Lords and the Commons was all on Labour obstruction – Labour have by far the most to lose from the changes – but these are major overhauls of the electoral map that have just been passed without a lot of voters knowing much about them.

    I wonder which MPs in NI find themselves without a seat to defend at the next election?

  • This will presumably lead to cut in Assembly seats from 108 to 96 – or even 80.

  • Yep, it will Nevin – nobody sought to de-link Assembly representation from Westminster, which the Bill does for Wales! So the Welsh Assembly numbers will stay the same but Stormont’s won’t.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally


    “This is the result of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill 2010, which was tagged onto the bill for the AV vote.”

    Perhaps I misunderstood it, but at one point wasnt the change to the number of MPs intended to be dependent on AV passing?

    “So the Welsh Assembly numbers will stay the same but Stormont’s won’t.”

    Presuambly that can change? Perhaps leverage could be applied by the government to get SF to move on Unionist reform of Stormo — if the changes dont work in SFs favour.

  • SethS

    They had better start this process soon as I suspect there is going to be along drawn out bitter fight over every seat.

    Funny that it will also reduce the number of MLAs – well there’s a few quid saved from the budget – I presume they will be frantically scrabbling to decouple the rwo now.

  • SethS

    Anyone know if the failure to remove the link in NI was deliberate or forgetful?

  • It’s about time the numbers in the Assembly were reduced. The only reason there are 6 representatives per constituency was so that David Ervine would be guaranteed a seat – the original plans were for fewer.

  • Ceist

    and a reduced number of MLA’s will put added pressure on the committee system which may lead to calls for a reduction in the number of department.

    (to be fair Eoin Clarke at The Green Benches had this story over a week ago)

  • SethS


    That’s partially true I suppose, 6 members were chosen to give a reasonably proportional outcome given the political parties at the time. I would support retaining this number (if you consider a reasonable amount of proportionality to be a good thing.

    That said there’s no particular reason to have Assembly consituencies matched to Westminister ones, other than convenience – and the fact that you only get one lot of fights when boundaries are redrawn (on the other hand maybe thats a very good reason for matching the two).

  • Nunoftheabove

    I shouldn’t think that it will be that contentious; one of the few benefits of having a sectarian cartel administering the place….

  • Drumlins Rock

    61,224 BELFAST EAST
    68,111 BELFAST NORTH
    62,130 BELFAST SOUTH
    61,057 BELFAST WEST
    62,027 EAST ANTRIM
    68,853 FOYLE
    67,702 LAGAN VALLEY
    66,949 MID ULSTER
    75,446 NORTH ANTRIM
    62,553 NORTH DOWN
    65,217 SOUTH ANTRIM
    73,445 SOUTH DOWN
    62,405 STRANGFORD
    78,416 UPPER BANN
    63,202 WEST TYRONE

    1,213,136 TOTAL

    NI Assembly Electorate on 1 March 2011

    new target is 76,000 or between 72,000 and 80,000 to allow 5% either way.

  • iluvni

    What work is more important for the (quite a number of) MLAs who arent in the chamber right now debating the budget?

  • Dewi

    Three seats in a slightly smaller Belfast looks obvious…but where to get the other?

  • SethS:

    But that’s the thing – the small parties (PUP, WC) of the day are no longer relevant and the justification for 6 seats has thus vanished. I’m not even sure that strict proportionality is a good thing either – it enables seats to be won by parties who appeal to narrow sections of the community. What we need to be doing is forcing politicians to broaden their base, not entrenching them in their niches. Of course, a return to the old system is out of the question. This is why I’m curious to see how AV will pan out.

  • Breaking up Mid-Ulster and giving bits to WT, FST and EL looks like a good place to start, with cascading boundary changes in the north to even things out. Newry/Armagh, UB and South Down look spot on as they are. Constituencies bordering Belfast could creep in to the suburbs to make up the numbers.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    Who, if anyone, is campaigning for the representation at Westminster to take account of devolution and the resulting West Lothian question?

    This issue must surely strike a chord with some in the Tory party.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Before we do a redraw there is one big questions to be asked, will the RPA go ahead and the new wards & DEAs be used? untill that is decided then its futile guessing boundaries, one thing I would suggest is that what ever is decided the council boundaries should be better reflected to avoid confusion.

  • Neil

    NI is a special case, electoral areas must be between 70,500 and 80,500 approx.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Even though the numbers are ok for N&A might I suggest it would be sensible to give the city of Newry one MP rather than split it?

  • Mick Fealty


    Good question. It’s not at all obvious.

    PS Thanks DR!

  • Drumlins Rock

    Mick, just one thing to add, these are the assembly figure, not the Westminister ones, so what you might say! but there is up to 2,000 of a difference in F&ST I think to start with as foreign Nationals dont get to vote for Westminster but can for Stormont.

  • Woodstock

    “It’s about time the numbers in the Assembly were reduced. The only reason there are 6 representatives per constituency was so that David Ervine would be guaranteed a seat – the original plans were for fewer.”

    In which Assembly election did David Ervine sneak in with the sixth seat???

  • Looking at the wider picture – from a Scottish perspective:

    SCOTLAND will lose seven seats at the next Westminster election as a result of the new boundary changes, it has been announced.

    The loss of 12 per cent of the 59 seats north of the Border represents the worst case scenario following the passing of the coalition’s bill on boundary changes.

    The government is reducing the number of seats in parliament from 650 to 600 and while England loses just 31 of its 533 seats, Wales has done even worse than Scotland, losing a quarter of the 40 seats it currently has. Northern Ireland will lose just two seats out of 18.

    However, there is fury in Scotland over the announcement and accusations that the government was trying to gerrymander the constituencies in its favour.”

  • Drumlins Rock


    One Man One Vote! *

    *except in Shetland where you will have 2 votes and in Isle of Wight where you will have 3/4 of a vote.

  • oracle

    Strangford and Mid-Ulster will probably be the scrapped seats.

    The problem is the demographics how do you eliminate two seats with out looking sectarian, therefore it has to be one safe Nationalist and one safe Unionist seat to be scrapped, added to that is the problem of political favoring within the separate communities, that means that the SDLP seats should be safe along with Alliance but unionist independent Sylvia Hermon’s can probably kiss goodbye to North Down.

    The smart play would be to scrap North Down bringing a sizeable chunk of it into East Belfast allowing Alliance a fighting chance of holding on to East Belfast, some into South Belfast bringing it’s falling electorate back up and at the same time dislodging a Nationalist in favour of a Unionist, the rest of the constituency can be amalgamated with Strangford Peninsula.

    Mid Ulster will probably go for its tea also being divvied up between FST WT and East L the blow being softened by SF picking up the Deeney assembly seat and the DUP seat held by either Bresland or Buchanan in West Tyrone the elimination of the SDLP Tommy Gallagher in FST which will enable Sinn Fein to capture the assembly seat held by the DUP’s Maurice Morrow, the Shinners would also get a free roll against the DUP’s Adrian McQuillan in East Londonderry.

    That’s my take on it but hell I’ve been wrong before…. Just can’t remember when

  • oracle

    North down and Mid Ulster >>>> TYPO sorry

  • Dewi

    Wales has done even worse than Scotland, losing a quarter of the 40 seats it currently has. No complaints from me at all. Fair’s fair.

  • Neil

    Should be interesting. In Michael Shilliday’s example of Belfast going from 4 seats to 2, it would mean an average of 20,000 voters being moved from Belfast to surrounding constituencies. That’s a good few thousand voters in West Belfast heading for Lagan Valley.

    Any redrawing of constituencies is going to have a massive range of knock on effect though, to accomodate extra voters from one constituency some areas will likely have to redraw their borders to eliminate some voters on the other side of the constituency map. It’s going to be mustard watching the politicians faces as they figure out the results of the changes – should happen sometime around 2015 I reckon.

  • Michael Shilliday

    My example is of Belfast going from 4 to 3…….

  • Barry the Blender

    Anthony Wells had this on his UKpollingreport site on the 25th February. Apparently Northern Ireland will not have such strict limits as the rest of the UK regarding the quotas.

    I think it’s quite easy to speculate that one seat will go in the west, merging Mid Ulster and West Tyrone, and giving bits to East Londonderry in Magherafelt, Foyle in North Tyrone and Fermanagh and South Tyrone in Coalisiland.

    Nerwry and Armagh require no significant change.

    The east is harder to call. I see merit in scrapping one of the Belfast seats (South), yet it would be difficult to create a domino effect here so that seats as far as East Antrim expand.

    Most likely one of the more central constituencies shall be sliced up, like Strangford, Lagan Valley or South Antrim.

    Or they could just start in the east/greater Belffast area from scratch.

  • Neil

    Wales has done even worse than Scotland, losing a quarter of the 40 seats it currently has. No complaints from me at all. Fair’s fair.

    I would say the majority of voters in NI would be quite happy to see a commensurate number of MPs/MLAs in NI as they do elsewhere. The only group likely to be unhappy would be the politicians themselves. But if there’s money needing saved then I can think of nowhere better to start than Stormont. They don’t produce much really.

  • SethS


    Your right of course it all depends on the priority you want to give to proportionality. In general larger STV consituencies tend to give more proportional results.
    You would only need a larger proportion of the overall electorate if (as in the above scenario) the number of seats fell.

    This does have the effect of allowing parties to appeal to narrow electorates, but does also give new parties an opportunity to actually gain representation.

    I guess I am hoping for both existing parties to braoden bases and for new parties to break the status quo. Perhaps these two are not totally compatible.

  • Neil

    Sorry Michael, I should have said ‘in the example Michael posted’ instead of ‘Michael’s example.’ Do forgive me.

  • wallpaper

    Interesting development – I had previously been expecting there to be 15 NI constituencies following the next review. I have been doing some calculations to see where the two constituencies will be lost in a 16 seat scenario.

    South Down, Newry-Armagh, Upper Bann will stay the same.

    Belfast will lose one – there will now be two nationalist MPs (North West, South West) and one unionist (South East).

    The 25,000 voters left over from the old Belfast seats will go to Strangford, Lagan Valley, and South Antrim. Each of these outer Greater Belfast seats, along with North Down, will be expanded and changed slightly. South Antrim will include most of Carrickfergus. Larne and Ballymena will join to form a new Mid Antrim seat. North Antrim will lose Ballymena, but will gain Coleraine.

    You’d have four seats west of the Bann: 1. Foyle, 2. Mid Ulster (Limavady, Magherafelt, East Cookstown), 3. West Tyrone (Omagh, Strabane, West Cookstown), 4. Fermanagh-Dungannon.

    So by my calculations, East Londonderry would be second seat to go. It would be divided, with Coleraine going to a Ballymena-less North Antrim, and Limavady going to Mid Ulster.

    Total list of seats (8 nationalist, 8 unionist):
    1. North West Belfast
    2. South West Belfast
    3. South East Belfast
    4. North Down
    5. Mid Down (Strangford without Ards)
    6. Lagan Valley
    7. South Antrim
    8. Mid Antrim (Ballymena and Larne)
    9. North Antrim (including Coleraine)
    10. Mid Ulster
    11. Foyle
    12. West Tyrone
    13. Fermanagh-South Tyrone
    14. Newry-Armagh
    15. Upper Bann
    16. South Down

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    Drumlins Rock,

    The total electorate figures are way up on 2003, have you seen a constituency breakdown – I seem to recall a debate on Slugger before the Westminsters on voter registration by constituency and some very suprising figures – e.g. East Belfast higher than West Belfast – though I’m saying that from memory.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    typo “The total electorate figures are way up on 2007”

  • Drumlins Rock

    Just checked a few figures based on 3 of the cities and their councils, Derry CC has 73,000. so would pass, Newry & Mourne has 66,765 but if you added in Newcastle DEA from Down would take it to 79,000. while Belfast and Castlereagh combined is 219,000 ie. 3 seats of 73,000. be a logical place to start possibly?

  • Drumlins Rock

    Sammy, I think that rising figure is why we got 16 rather than 15 seats as was hinted at previously.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Few more, North Down and half of Ards, 72500, rest of Ards & Down (exc Newcastle) 72500. Lisburn 78,000.

    been too easy so far!

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    Drumlins Rock

    Number of seats up, number of seats down – smacks of Tory expediency dessed up as reform.

  • There are still small parties that need the 6th seat – notably the Green Party. That is until the electorate get rid of the four or five old farts^H^H^H^H^Hfailures.

  • john

    Nicholas Whyte looked at this in a blog about 6 months ago. It was very interesting but unfortunately I cant bloody find the link. At the time Northern Ireland looked like losing 3 seats but a number of the conclusions are the same. He mainly looked at Belfast losing 2 seats which personally I cant see happening or the more likely outcome were Belfast would retain 3 seats and that the 5 seats West of the Bann would become 4. The remaining constituencies will still need a litlle bit of reshuffling

    The possible outcomes are really quite interesting
    West of the Bann the outcome is SF to lose a seat as Mid Ulster will disappear but East Londoderry to become a lot less safe for the DUP.
    In Belfast a new NorthWest Belfast will be a close call between SF and DUP. SouthWest Belfast at first glance should be a SF victory but a number of SDLP voters will be taken from the old South Belfast together with Unionist tactical voting or transfers( if AV goes ahead) and the fact that a certain Mr Adams has gone might make it a bit closer. South East Belfast could also be very interesting as the remainder of South Belfast shifted into the new constituency may help Alliance hold the seat.
    However all this is specualtion and the boundary comission may decide on a completley new set of constituencies so we will just have to wait and see!

  • Strangely enough the reduction to 16 seats is messier than a reduction to 15 would have been.

    Four of the current seats are more or less bang on the new electoral quota – S Down, U Bann, Newry and Armagh and North Antrim. But if the first three of these are kept as is (perhaps add Dromore back to South Down), it becomes impossible to keep North Antrim.

    The five current western constituencies in the old counties of Fermanagh, Tyrone and L’derry have 4.4 quotas under new arrangements. FST at present has 0.93 quotas; Derry council is 0.97; so that leaves 2.5 new seats from the current W Tyrone, M Ulster and (most of) E L’derry.

    Clearly E Londonderry ends up being split, with the Coleraine end being united with North Antrim (which then has to shed territory to the east and/or south).

    If South Down has meanwhile expanded to take Dromore back, then Lisburn council is a nice 1.03 quotas to make a seat without any adjustment. That of course means that most of the territory trimmed from the Belfast seats (the four current seats have 3.33 new quotas so must lose some territory) will be the West Belfast extension into Lisburn Council, with (I would speculate) the rest being Carryduff which goes back into the Strangford constituency (which I would hope could be renamed Mid Down). North Down takes in the Ards peninsula.

    So oddly enough the seat that is effectively lost in the West is East L’derry, and in the East the most changed are South and West Belfast which will be merged with trimmings for the surrounding constituencies.

    That’s just my first reaction, and it’s based on the perhaps dubious assumption that the Blackwater is less likely to be breached than the Lower Bann. More later.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally


    Have you got anything to hand on the % increase in the electorate by constituency since the last Assembly election in 2007.

  • mfbailey

    From the 1st March 2011 EONI figures (and the 2007 figures), I get
    Belfast, East +23%
    Belfast, North +38%
    Belfast, South +27%
    Belfast, West +20%
    East Antrim +9%
    East Londonderry +17%
    Fermanagh & South Tyrone +8%
    Foyle +6%
    Lagan Valley -3%
    Mid-Ulster +9%
    Newry & Armagh +10%
    North Antrim +4%
    North Down +9%
    South Antrim -1%
    South Down +2%
    Strangford -6%
    Upper Bann +11%
    West Tyronne +8%

    (and, no, I don’t get why the total electorate has gone up by 9.5% in 4 years – 1.213 million compared to 1.107 million)

  • ItwasSammyMcNally


    perhaps a few boundary changes in there which may affect some of the individual numbers – cant remember off the top of my head.

    There has been significant demographic growth in South and North Belfast as signposted by the late Horseman and there has also been a big increase in immigration but still is pretty impressive growth.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Nicolas, The Blackwater has already been breached, with part of North Armagh being in Fermanagh South Tyrone, which Rodney Connor was rather surprised to hear when I explained it to him! plus as someone who lives in that area I certainly have much more in common with Armagh or Portadown than I do with Enniskillen. Hills and mountains are much more natural barriers nowadays, almost as big as big an obstacle as rivalries between towns! Have worked out the rest of my 15 and will give them to you in a minute.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Ok here are my proposals! ps, havnt worked out which way they might fall yet though so could be digging a hole for myself!

    1: Kingdom of Mourne – Newry & Mourne + Newcastle = 75k
    2: Lecale – Down (-Newcastle) + Ards East & Newtownards town = 71k
    3: Clandeboy – North Down + Donaghadee & Ards Peninsula = 75k
    4: Lagan Valley – Lisburn = 78k
    5: Belfast Conswater – Castlereagh + Victoria = 72k
    6: Belfast Lagan – Pottinger, Laganbank, Balmoral and Upper Falls = 72k
    7: Belfast Farset – Lower Falls, Court, Old Park and Castle = 72k
    8: Antrim South – Antrim + Newtownabbey (- Ballyclare dea) = 78k
    9: Antrim East – Ballyclare + Carrickfergus + Larne + Moyle = 74k
    10: Antrim West – Ballymena + Ballymoney + the “Ports”= 77k
    11: Londonderry East – Coleraine (- “Ports”) + Limavady + Magherafelt = 80k
    12: Foyle – Derry CC = 74k
    13: Sperrins – Strabane (-Derg)+ Omagh (-West Tyrone)+ Cookstown + Torrent dea = 78k
    14: Oriel – Fermanagh + Derg dea + West Tyr dea + Clogher V = 72k
    15: Primatial – Dungannon & Blackwater dea + Armagh + Portadown dea = 76k
    16: Upper Bann – Banbridge + Craigavon (-Portadown) = 80k

  • Barry the Blender

    Some wonderful names in there DR but I can’t help wondering if some are made up.

    The Sperrins seat wouldn’t contain the Sperrin Dea though.

  • smellybigoxteronye

    Great work there Drumlins. Seem to be mostly cohesive constituencies (not in the sectarian NI sense, but in the sense of a normalised wider cohesive “cross community” identity in many of the areas, defined by natural geographic features). Also love the traditional names – much better than the horrid “inner east” etc. names that were being proposed for the councils.

    As a suggestion, I’d rename your East Antrim to simply “Antrim Coast” as the constituency in effect would now include the whole Antrim coast from north shore of Belfast Lough to north Antrim coast. More tradition there with all of the Glens of Antrim under one constituency! (there’s definitely a common “cross community” Antrim Glens identity there).

    Love the “Kingdom of Mourne” too. Newcastle has the Mournes dominating it’s backdrop yet not associated with the “Mourne” constituency.

    Similarly, your “Sperrins” constituency much more accurately reflects the geography of the rolling Sperrin mountains, to which surrounding people have a common attachment.

  • Just to deal with some points further up:

    Peter Geoghegan: these are major overhauls of the electoral map that have just been passed without a lot of voters knowing much about them.

    Well, some of us were following the process pretty closely, and I’ve done numerous blog pieces and four or five media interviews about it.

    Sammy: at one point wasnt the change to the number of MPs intended to be dependent on AV passing?


    Seth: Anyone know if the failure to remove the link in NI was deliberate or forgetful?

    The default is to keep devolved and Westminster seats the same. Wales successfully argued for a decoupling. NI didn’t make the argument.

    Drumlins Rock: will the RPA go ahead and the new wards & DEAs be used?

    Probably not.

    Sammy/mfbailey: The 2007 boundaries are different for all but the south-western seats and North Down. The increase in electorate is indeed spectacular.

    Drumlins Rock: I think that looks along the right lines. It depends a bit on the extent to which the commissioners take the existing seats as a starting point. I’d have thought it more likely that they leave the Armagh / South Down corner as is, which has slightly different knock-on effects.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Nicholas, Thats where I started, because it is ridiculous to divide Newry and Mourne like at present, the Mourne identity is much stronger than any county identity, Newry is in a position to rival L’derry as the second city within a generation it is stupid dividing it.
    I’m waiting to hear some one say the same about my proposal to divide Craigavon, but Portadown & Lurgan are a old waring couple, best to split them and give us all peace, trial seperation, not a full divorce though 🙂
    In the far west, Fermanagh has such a strong identity it spills into that western end of Tyrone, so long as you leave Omagh itself out as they are not much better that Portydown & Lurgan.
    Dungannon, Armagh & Portadown might look strange, but there is a a good common identity their, with the three towns complimenting each other rather than rival. Coming from the far west of my proposed area I can say I certainly dont look to Enniskillen, maybe going there once or twice a yr! but I be in Armagh & Portadown regularly.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally


    This ‘spectacular’ increase will surely become a major story in the run up to the election.

    It seems a constitutional nonsense(good news to some of us) that the Stormo elections will have a bigger electorate than the (siginifcantly less important) Westminsters with immigrants presumably accounting for a large percentage of this increase – times like these the boul Horseman is sadly missed he would have given us the (hopefully good news) of how the ward increases impacted on the inferred constitutional head count and confirmed Natioinalist demographic advance.

    mfbailey, did you do those sums by comparing the 2007 and 2011 – if so, seems strange they didnt show the percentages increases themselves?

  • john

    Good work DR and I like the names too. Have you worked out the potential winners and losers yet!. I quite like Nicholas idea to bin East Londonderry as it means Gregory wont have to double job anymore maybe we should try and redraw the constituencies to help poor overworked Sammy too!

  • Barry the Blender

    Dungannon, Armagh & Portadown might look strange, but there is a a good common identity their

    I actually thought that one of the more sensible proposals you churned out. Those areas are inextricably linked. Dungannon and Enniskillen aren’t really.

    The argument for a single seat based on Newry & Mourne council also holds a lot of weight. There was no telling that to Seamus Mallon though.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Have put my suggestions in their own thread.