Unionist votes are worth more than Nationalist votes, all thanks to 6 men staring down a hole! Just look at the following distribution though Belfast’s current District Electoral Areas:
Victoria has an electorate of 25,814 and has 7 seats
Oldpark has an electorate of 22,408 and has 6 seats
Upper Falls has an electorate of 20,530 and only has 5 seats
Pottinger has an electorate of 19,929 and has 6 seats
Castle has an electorate of 19,494 and also has 6 seats
Balmoral has an electorate of 18,752 and has 6 seats
Lower Falls has an electorate of 17,238 and has 5 seats
Laganbank has an electorate of 16,314 and has 5 seats
Court only has an electorate of 13,455 and yet has 5 seats
The number of seats in a particular District Electoral Area (or DEA) depend on the number of wards allocated to that DEA so if it has 5 wards it gets 5 seats or 7 wards like Victoria it gets 7 seats.
Neither the Electoral commission nor the Electoral offices have anything to do with the allocation of wards and it’s not even the Boundary commission either.
It is, believe it or not, the responsibility of a section of that mind-bogglingly bureaucratic, mind numbingly unaccountable, and mind blowingly ineffective, Civil Service that we all love. In particular it’s that fantastically inept old institution better known, amongst other names, as the DOE
There was a District Electoral Area Commissioner appointed in 2007 but can’t or won’t come into effect until after the council restructuring from 26 to 11 when the DOE will redraw the council boundaries.
It is highly unlikely that the council changes will take effect before 2015 at the earliest and probably closer to 2018 yet all the while Unionists are over represented on Belfast City Council and thus have extra votes in chamber on decisions that directly affect Nationalist areas of the City.
The demographics of Belfast has changed enormously in the last 5 years alone, in the last ten years the changes to the demographics can only be described as massive, in the last 15 years the changes have been almost unreal, so could one of the six men usually found in the middle of a road staring down a hole please explain why there hasn’t been a review of wards for 20 years… that’s right twenty years.
The pragmatic person could argue that it is the hard working ethos of the Nationalist councillors that means that the Upper Falls councillors are expected to represent 4106 voters while their counterparts in Court only have to represent 2691.
A more cynical mind would say that the issue has always been ignored by the community that benefitted most from it, as in effect it gave Unionist between 6-7 extra seats on Belfast City council that cannot be justified by any rationale other than deliberate gerrymandering of the Belfast Council, 2011 and we’re still seeing deliberate or unchallenged gerrymandering, now that is a scandal on all our heads.
The Court DEA should take the Ballysillan ward from the Oldpark DEA and amalgamate it with Glencairn bringing the Courts D.E.A electorate up to 17,155 and keeping the 5 seats.
Oldpark should lose a seat with the Ballysillan ward removed thus it would have 5 seats for a new electorate of 18,700
The Pottinger D.E.A should amalgamate 2 of its wards and thus reduce its seats to 5
The Balmoral D.E.A likewise and reduce its seats to 5
The Castle D.E.A likewise and reduce its seats to 5
The Victoria D.E.A likewise and reduce its seats to 5
The Laganbank D.E.A likewise and reduce its seats to 6
This will save the Belfast Rate-payer £60,000 a year in appearance money alone for these needless extra councillors, Unionists would lose 4 seats and Nationalists 3 seats but Nationalists would be compensated with an extra seat in Oldpark with the reduced unionist vote due to the absence of the Ballysillan ward..
However it was the massive change in demographics in the last twenty years that has reduced the cushy 6-7 extra seat “Brucie bonus” that was unjustifiably gifted to Unionist controlled D.E.A’s not any sense of fairness by any government body or pressurising from the Nationalist parties who for decades have turned a blind eye to this very visible injustice.
If the Nationalist representative of Upper Falls can provide the service to the electorate for the last twenty years without criticism or concern from the rest of the councillors in the Belfast City hall that there wasn’t enough of them, then surely it goes without saying that the rest of the District Electoral Areas can do the same.
Unless, of course, a problem arises because Unionists can’t work as hard as Nationalist!