Help us crowdsource ‘local ticks’ in the Boundary Review of Northern Ireland?

Over the next week or so e’re going to give people a chance to dig down into the ward detail of specifics of constituencies. We propose to do it two at a time, featuring one constituency with lots of changes and giving rise to a range of issues, and one less complicated one. That way we’ll not overburden the non anoraks with too many constituency conversations…

But before we start, a reminder. This is a set of draft proposals, not the final finished article. The public consultations will get underway in October when no doubt party tacticians will do their best to make further gains, or prevent expected losses.

However the Boundary Commission will not take amendments based on what their decisions will mean for individual parliamentarians or the fortunes of one party against another. With this in mind you should note the specific guidance they’ve been expected to follow themselves:

·  local government wards would be the building blocks of the new constituencies and, so far as practicable, would not be split between constituencies;

·  the flexibility permitted by Rule 7 would be used only where we considered that the application of the UK quota range would unreasonably impair our ability to exercise our discretionary powers;

·  existing constituency boundaries would be respected as far as possible, while recognising that even where an existing constituency has an electorate which is within the quota range, its boundaries might need to be altered to accommodate changes in neighbouring constituencies;

·  where practicable, we would take account of special geographical considerations, including the size, shape and accessibility of proposed constituencies; major transport links; the continuity of urban settlements;

· and natural features such as rivers, loughs and mountains; where possible, we would take reasonable account of any clearly identifiable local ties which would be broken by our proposed changes.

Discretionary changes may be made for the following specific reasons:

·         special geographical considerations, including in particular the size, shape and accessibility of a constituency;

·         local government boundaries as they exist on the most recent ordinary council-election day before the review date;

·         boundaries of existing constituencies;

·         any local ties which would be broken by changes in constituencies;

And here is how they did it:

In its consideration of the requirement to reduce the number of constituencies in Northern Ireland from 18 to 16, the Commission modelled a number of options beginning variously in the north west, the south west, the south and Belfast. Irrespective of the starting point and direction of travel, these models produced a similar overall pattern. The Commission concluded that incremental changes (i.e. the transfer of seven or fewer electoral wards) would be required in nine existing constituencies: Belfast North; Fermanagh and South Tyrone; Foyle; Lagan Valley; Newry and Armagh; North Down; South Antrim; South Down; and Upper Bann. In other places more substantial changes would be needed.

In Belfast, the Commission noted that the existing 4 constituencies amounted to 3.2 quotas. It considered a number of options which would maintain a four-constituency Belfast. These would, however, all have required substantial extensions of the Belfast constituency boundaries into adjacent rural areas and settlements outside the city. The Commission concluded that its Provisional Proposals should be based on 3 Belfast constituencies, with the consequence that a number of wards in the existing Belfast constituencies would be transferred to adjacent constituencies.

As a result of this preliminary work, the Commission concluded that the starting point for the review should be Belfast and that the first constituency to be delineated in a 3-seat Belfast configuration should be Belfast North.

There are two reasons for this: (i) the geographical layout of the city around Belfast Lough argues against combining elements of Belfast North with Belfast East, which means that the process should begin with one of these two; (ii) the existing electorate of Belfast North is closest to the quota.

After the delineation of 3 constituencies in Belfast, the Commission proceeded to delineate constituencies in immediately adjacent areas and then to work in a northerly and anti clockwise direction, beginning with South Antrim.

Having looked at a range of constituency groupings, the Commission noted that the 5 western constituencies of Fermanagh and South Tyrone,West Tyrone, Mid Ulster, Foyle and East Londonderry amounted to 4.2 quotas. They concluded that 4 seats should be delineated for this part of the region.

Okay, so we’ll launch the first thread later this afternoon, with links to maps and demographics to each one. In the meantime, any general thoughts, links or ideas of how to take this further forward would be very welcome…

  • I’d suggest taking FST/Mid-Tyrone and Mid/South Antrim in pairs so we can discuss the possibilities of a different split. Three of those four constituencies (especially Mid-Antrim) have “size, shape and accessibility” issues which would be difficult to discuss in isolation of the neighbouring constituency.

  • I agree with Andrew. I also suggest that North Belfast / South West Belfast are a natural pair for this sort of discussion, and South East Belfast / North Down / Strangford could be treated as a unit.

  • Drumlins Rock

    suggested groupings, not necessarily in twos
    FST & Mid Tyrone
    Foyle & Glenshane
    North & Mid Antrim
    South Antrim & Lagan Valley
    The Three Belfasts
    North Down & Strangford
    Upper Bann, N&A, & South Down (very little change so put the three together.

    Some overlap of discussion will occur, particularly regarding Strabane, Coleraine and the southern suburbs.

  • Mick Fealty

    Some great suggestions. I think we’ll work on the basis of combining in twos and threes. And pssoibly even an odd four if there’s a compelling reason to do so.

  • Michael Shilliday

    Like Belfast you mean? Oh, wait…….

    It has been pointed out on Slugger before that there is particular reason for Belfast to be a 4 seat city. http://sluggerotoole.com/2011/03/04/belfast-and-lost-constituencies/

  • Michael Shilliday

    There is *no* particular reason.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Mick with regard to Belfast being represented by 2 MP’s … if Sinn Féin take the South West as is likely then obviously it will be, the representative abstentionist won’t be representing anyone as an MP.

    Mind you, the following year will be 2016, which means United Ireland and the Six Counties would have 48 TD’s instead. Three per new constituency, that would be interesting.

  • There are going to be losers, because there are two extra seats. Looking at the map overall, it seems geographically sensible to split areas north/middle/south or east. End of the day the point is about the overall numbers. Yes, micro reviewing is interesting, but would it matter if this ward or that townland was either side of a costituency border? Yes the west is ‘green’ but then we have devolved administration in which Unionists have their vote and representation, which is where the vote counts in respect to day to day lives – OK politicians are useless etc but then get involved if you don’t like the choice.

    What is striking and worth noting is that the whole of the west has barely the population of Antrim. That Antrim (North, Mid and East) is equal to Belfast or the whole of Fermanagh/Tyrone/Londonderry – yes there is Foyle, but the most populated south of the County Antrim is spread across North and West Belfast and Lagan Valley. That is the demographic of Northern Ireland that is most of note in all this.

  • Why not set up a crowdmap site (the hosted version of Ushandisi) so that people can put their comments directly on the map?

  • I have now published my own submission to the Boundary Commission at http://nwhyte.livejournal.com/1820859.html – feel free to use it as inspiration.