Boundary Review: Fermanagh and the two Tyrones…

So, partly at a suggestion of Andrew and Drumlin’s on the previous thread we’re starting way out west with a less politicially controversial pair of constituencies than those which have already featured in the news. So we begin by looking at Fermanagh and South Tyrone with the new constituency of Mid Tyrone.

FST first (map). Here’s the Commission’s notes:

The electorate of the Fermanagh and South Tyrone constituency at the review date was 68,979,
which is more than 7,000 below the quota. The Commission accordingly proposes the transfer of
the 6 wards of Drumquin, Dromore, Trillick, Fintona, Newtownsaville and Sixmilecross fromWest
Tyrone. This would bring the electorate to 78,664, which is 2.6% above the quota.

And then, Mid Tyrone (map):

The proposed transfer of 19 wards from Mid Ulster to the new constituency of Glenshane would
reduce the electorate of Mid Ulster by 35,343 to 30,312 which is considerably below the quota. This
points to a reconfiguration of theWest Tyrone and Mid Ulster constituencies in a new constituency
of Mid Tyrone. The Commission proposes (see above) the transfer of 3 wards fromWest Tyrone to
Foyle and, as will be seen below, it proposes to transfer 6 wards fromWest Tyrone to Fermanagh
and South Tyrone to enable that constituency to come within the quota range. The combination of
these proposed changes would give an electorate for the proposed new Mid Tyrone constituency
of 77,713, which is 1.4% above the quota.

The Commission also have an outline of the populations involved in each ward, which you can combine with the NISRA figures based on the 2001 census. Be careful in extrapolating too religiously from these since, they are out of date by more than ten years now.

Remember, we’re interested in the gritty detail here, not who is up or down (we can get to that later). We’re inviting you to think in those terms set by the Act. It’s an opportunity to make an intelligent impact on the Commission during their 12 week consultation process.

If we get enough good solid suggestions we may even make a more formal submission on your behalf…

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  • JR

    “Be careful in extrapolating too religiously” In Northern Ireland it’s all about extrapolating census data religously.

  • Fermanagh South Tyrone
    I dont like splitting DEAs but I suppose theres a context of fewer councils.
    It gains six wards from West Tyrone………five are in the West Tyrone DEA which means two “stay” with the new Mid Tyrone. It also means a single ward from Mid Tyrone DEA (Sixmilecross) “stays” in Mid Tyrone constituency.
    Sixmilecross has 1500 voters. Staying in Mid Tyrone would reduce FST by that number. But FST could have take about the same number from Fairy Water ward (West Tyrone DEA) and just be the same over quota. Adding the final West Tyrone DEA Clanabogan would put FST a further 2,000 voters over quota but in the interests of tidiness and continuity Id go for that.

  • Drumlins Rock

    First thought, the names don’t really work, Drumquin, Dromore & Trillick certainly aren’t South Tyrone, and obviously aren’t Fermanagh, althought they do “look to” Fermanagh in many thinks, as for saying the Derg Valley & Washingbay are in the middle of Tyrone, we shalls say no more.
    The proposal seems to be a Fermangh South / West Tyrone Hybrid and I personally think they should have went one way or the other, ie F&WT, take in most of Strabane and some more of Omagh areas, and give Dungannon & Blackwater dea’s to a new Mid-Ulster or else the more practical option of returning some of the Torrent wards, Altmore, Donaghmore & Coalisland West, some people in those wards still think they are in FST so it a natural move.
    Finally shifting Strabanes hinterland to Foyle looks odd.
    The hinterland debate will come up in all these threads and is a major issue, I will give you one practical reason, Constuency office are usually in major towns, where most people congrate regularily, but we will have situations where the public will use the nearest office even though its not their MLA, leading to confusion and complications, it happens now and will get much worse.

  • Roy Walsh

    Agreed DR, the Washing Bay could only be in mid-Tyrone if they annexed all Armagh, makes little sense though shifting certain west Newry-Armagh DEA’s would make sense since some of there look to Dungannon, the Moy as their hinterland.

  • I’ve been trying to make a Fermanagh and West Tyrone work, but it would mean cutting around Omagh town. You can make up the numbers with the Fermanagh council wards, the Strabane council wards from the proposed Mid Tyrone, plus Fintona, Trillick, Dromore, Drumquin, Clanabogan and Fairy Water. I’m not sure that’s an improvement.

    Another alternative would be Fermanagh and Omagh, covering the two council areas. This would require Glenshane to be split, merging most of the old Mid-Ulster constituency with the Dungannon council wards and merging the rest with the Strabane council wards. That seems a bit drastic, and Strabane + Limavady would be an odd combination.

    There have been some complaints about Strabane losing some hinterland to Foyle. The alternative to that would be for Foyle to get its extra numbers from Glenshane and for Glenshane to recoup the losses from Cookstown.

    Similarly, an alternative to losing Fintona etc. to FST could be to transfer some wards in the Coalisland area instead, but that would make the geographical imbalance of FST worse, not better.

    So, despite calling for this discussion, I reckon the commission proposals in this area are probably as good as we’re going to get.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Andrew, balance is the right work, at the moment the 60/40 balance just about works, but the new wards will skew things much more towards Enniskillen, leaving the Dungannon end as very much the poor relative. Some torrent wards would rebalance things a bit, it is and always will be a two part constituency and therefore the best option is to balance the halfs.

  • I don’t know about the demographics on the ground. I do know that — a few weeks back — I was thoroughly and serially lost taking the — ahem! — “short cut” through the Sperrins from Coleraine to Enniskillen. Once English Annie on the SatNav had messed up getting out of Coleraine, she didn’t seem too sure what happened next, or for the next two-and-a-half hours. How many “at the next junction, turn left” messages in succession are credible and convincing?

    So, as an outsider, I’ve looked at these two maps and said … phew! Properly representing this lot is a human impossibility.

    Quite frankly, this insistence on a norm of population (with the exceptions of the far north and the Isle of White), at the expense of all other considerations, looks a disaster.

    I know Im being superficial here, but here’s hoping enough English Tory MPs will be spooked by the cock-ups to vote the whole thing down, even at the second attempt.

  • Malcolm,

    Equal representation has to be the first priority. There is nothing fundamental about NI that means 18 seats will work better than 16 – the current 18 seats are also artificial creations, as Drumlin’s Rock has pointed out. We’re just accustomed to them. We’ll get accustomed to 16 in time too.

  • Andrew Gallagher @ 9:36 pm:

    Absolutely, no disagreement with that.

    Even so, “equal representation” is a value judgement. One MP represents a compact constituency in the inner-city or a leafy suburb within the five London Transport zones. She/he commutes to SW1 within an hour or so; holds surgeries in the local town hall or wherever; sleeps at home; has a family life; can cultivate the local media on a daily basis. None of that works for the rural NI MP, of any political persuasion.

    I’m still unconvinced that this hard-and-fast norm (a tight ±75,000) electors should be the only measure of “equal representation”. Even the present administration recognised that, by excepting the northern isles and the Isle of Wight (previous homophone was embarrassing).

    Equality means more than an arbitrary number plucked out of the air, from nowhere but a catchpenny campaign slogan. Any cost savings are marginal, and could have been far greater by — for an obvious example — cutting down to size the House of Lords (which has 800+ nominal members, most doing precisely nothing except collecting allowances and enjoying a subsidised canteen).

    Put it another way: Britain has around 21,000 elected officials in all tiers of government. Were we to be “represented” on a similar ratio to the US, we would have around 125,000. Nobody, certainly not I, would argue for electing the dog-catcher (or even the chief of police) — but we do have a “democratic deficit”. Reducing the number of MPs, while maintaining the 100+ on the government “pay-roll vote”, doesn’t reduce that deficit one scrap.

    Now back to the main event. I expect this series to be very instructive.

  • Dewi

    As a sort of rule all that stuff about rivers, Loughs and wards is Ok but shoudn’t religion be a factor? In Wales linguistic character is disallowed…surely more important than physical boundaries…why not recognise reality?

  • Mick Fealty

    That’s a suggestion that really belongs on the original thread not this FST/MT one Dewi. The idea is to capture the natural human contours of local society.

    I can see a reason for including language in Wales, but unless you’re motivated to socially engineer even greater separation between religions than already exists, why should it matter?

    More importantly, how would it affect these particular constituencies?

  • Drumlins Rock

    Dewi, I think community identity should be a factor, ie it was unfair dividing the Shankill for example espically when they were unable to elect a single MLA to represent their identity on the West side, probably the same can be agrued for the Antrim Glens from the other identity. On the other hand it would be made transfering Shortstrand to North Belfast just to get a SF representative, the geography. in FST the Torrent DEA is the example where the only Unionist seat was being squeezed, and the transfer to Mid Ulster increased that communitys isolation as they were a small voice dominated by Cookstown & Magherafelt wards, in our party we do still treat it almost as part of the constituency still, hence my previous arguements. I think the vote mix would be quite similar to the proposals, maybe Nicolas could confirm that.

  • Dewi

    “Natural human countours of local society”
    Precisely my point – and particularly relevant in these constituencies. But take the point about on the original thread.

  • Mick Fealty

    There are probably other examples of this in other constituencies, but you’d need to find more compelling reasons other than religion to appeal the draft decision.

  • Well, here’s a concrete suggestion: rather than moving the six Omagh wards from West Tyrone to FST, why not instead move the Dungannon Torrent wards in from Mid Ulster?

    That way you restore Dungannon’s northern hinterland, you don’t break up the Omagh or Dungannon districts, and you are back at the 1983-96 Mid Ulster / FST configuration.

    I see Andrew Gallagher’s point about geographical imbalance, but if you consider FST as having two nuclei in Fermanagh and Dungannon, and Mid Tyrone as having three in Strabane, Omagh and Cookstown, I think it is defensible.

    The six Omagh wards in question have a December 2010 electorate of 9,685; the six Torrent wards have 10,836. Swapping them round would put FST on 79,815 rather than 78,664, which is just about within the margins of tolerance (allowed maximum is 80,473), and Mid Tyrone is on a comfortable 75,962 rather than 77,113, so just below rather than just above the quota of 76,641.

    I also agree that Mid Tyrone would be better rebranded Mid Ulster, as it’s almost the same as the constituency of that name which existed from 1950 to 1996, especially if you take the Torrent wards rather than the Omagh six.

    Does that seem reasonable?

  • Drumlins Rock

    Nicholas, you could leave Washing Bay in Mid-Ulster, it looks towards the loughshore with the Ballinderry wards anyway, which would give you FST on 77,823 & MU (yes I agree with the name retention) on 77,954. Probably not advantageous to Unionist getting Torrent back (its 85% RC, the Omagh 6 are 72%, leaving Washingbay in would change those to 82% / 76% ) but the practical side of me could probably live with that.

  • DR,

    I thought about Washing Bay, but it makes the geography a bit weird. While the Bay itself is obviously part of the lough shore, the population, such as it is, is mainly inland in Killeen.

    Likewise, Altmore at the other end of the Torrent DEA looks superficially attractive to exclude from FST in terms of lines on the map, but actually it borders most of Dungannon Town to the north.

    Anyway I think I would argue that provided the proposed constituency size is between 70,583 and 80,473, it’s not the commission’s business to equalise the seats further. Their duty is to stay within the margins, not to try rigorously to hit the quota every time.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Its a wee world of its own down there NW, the Loughshore Republic, they would probably relish being seperated from Coalisland! Wee bits like that are only for one election round I guess with the 5 yr reviews coming in, it looks a bit funny on the map but makes perfect sense on the ground to put it in with MU though I still believe. Just like the current proposals look right on the map but are mad on the ground.
    The commission seem to have gone for lines on the map, unfortunately if they had of used an OS geographical map they would have seen the very clear natural border along the North of the Clogher Valley, there is some reason to the FST maddness.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Nicholas, had a read of your proposals, can see the logic in your Lissan proposal, originally thought the comissioners had gone for county boundaries there but it appears Lissan staggles both so can go either way.
    Gonna throw out another suggestion, the Fermanagh West Tyrone one, basically swap Dungannon for Strabane, with Augher Clogher, FMT, Dromore, Drumquin, Fintona, Trillick & N’saville to Fermanagh & the Rest to a new Mid Ulster. Geographically it is more compact, espically when you consider how sparsely populated the bulk of Glenderg & Plumbridge wards are, there would be a case for splitting Augher as much of the ward actually encompases Ballygawley. The figures work I think.

  • DR,

    Cheers – I hope you’ll formally put in a counter-proposal! (And I would say, the earlier the better, so that it will get ventilated at the public hearings.) Your suggestion is then not far off the initial mid-90s Fermanagh / West Tyrone, though in that case Dungannon got bunched with Armagh rather than with Cookstown. Not sure how much the Omagh folks will like it though – you’re still stripping away their southern hinterland.

    For me there is also an attraction in returning FST’s boundaries to where they were in 1983-96, but I have no expectation that others will agree to that.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Nic, I did some quick firgure on likely election results based on the existing proposals or including torrent, both with and without Washing Bay, could you have a look at them? Gussing you have an email address on your website, will forwards them there.
    As I said previously the current proposals is a bad blend of existing FST and the FWT proposal, either go one way or the other.

  • DR,

    I tried a FWT above and it didn’t work very well. Your new suggestion includes more Dungannon wards and fewer Omagh wards than mine. Considering that Strabane and Fermanagh council areas don’t even share a border, I’m not sure you can call that “compact”.

  • Tochais Síoraí

    Fermanagh-Cavan?

  • Drumlins Rock

    Well if Cavan wants to rejoin the UK I’m sure we can make some space.