The 17 new constituencies?

Northern Ireland's parliamentary map is about to be redrawn again, with the number of seats cut from 18 to 17. This is likely to result in Belfast being reduced from four seats to three, two of which (on recent form) look like decent prospects for Sinn Féin. The former SDLP leader's seat of South Belfast is unlikely to survive, and the new boundaries of the South Antrim seat held by the UUP's Danny Kennedy Kinahan (thanks Kevin and Windowlean) are likely to favour the DUP, who he narrowly beat in 2015.

In detail: the coming Assembly election will be the last time that the current 18 constituencies are used for a Northern Ireland-wide election.

Current map

(This map taken from the Boundary Commission's archive site, but I have drawn on it to emphasise the boundaries.)

You may remember that the 2010-2015 Coalition government legislated to reduce the House of Commons from 650 to 600 seats, and that on that basis Northern Ireland was scheduled to lose two of its MPs and to be reduced to 16 seats. The Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland duly produced a new map of 16 constituencies, including reducing Belfast to three seats, but these were never enacted because the Liberal Democrats voted with the opposition to prevent the implementation of the new boundaries (not that it did them much good).

Rejected 16-seat map (2012)

(This map is also from the Boundary Commission archive site; I have drawn on it again to emphasise the then proposed new seats. The areas in light pink on the map are where the Boundary Commission's revised recommendations differed from their provisional recommendations; in each case it was a change that I had proposed, though I proposed other changes that were not accepted.)

Although the implementation of the changes in the last parliament was blocked, the law has not been changed and it still mandates a reduction to 600 seats overall, varying no more than 5% from average size in most cases, and to be revised every five-year Parliament. But this time, it seems that Northern Ireland's electorate has increased while the number of voters in England, Scotland and Wales has decreased, to the point that the Six Counties will now be entitled to 17 MPs out of 600, a loss of only one. I've had a go at working out one set of possible boundaries:

My guess at a 17-seat map

(This map is from the District Electoral Area Commissioner's website, so the thin boundaries mark the DEA boundaries for the 11 new local councils elected in 2014; the thick red lines are my guess at the new constituencies.)

A couple of housekeeping points here. First, the building blocks now are the new electoral wards which are the basis of the 11 new local councils. The 16-seat map last time round was generated on the basis of the old wards which were drawn up in the 1990s for the 26 old councils. There are fewer new wards, and on average they are bigger and have more population. So the construction of constituencies using them is going to lead to some very rough edges (as I think is apparent from my map).

Second, the constituency electorate limits are a bit looser in Northern Ireland than elsewhere. In the UK as a whole, the upper limit on constituency size is 78,507 voters (as of 1 December 2015) and the lower limit 71,031; the lower limit for Northern Ireland, however, is 69,401. I argued strongly last time around that the Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland should have no hesitation in using the extra leeway, and I still think that, though in fact my own proposed seats are all inside both limits.

So, to the map. I could see no way of preserving four seats in Belfast. It only narrowly escaped going down to a three-seat city in the mid-1990s, and the numbers since then have got worse. The new Belfast City Council boundaries enclose just under 3/17 of Northern Ireland's voters. To add another seat's worth would mean extending the city constituencies far into the rural fringes, to the point that they would lose the city identity anyway.

Belfast has 60 wards, so if we divide into three that means twenty each. In fact the twenty wards (apart from Belvoir) east of the river Lagan make a nice East Belfast block, if a little under the ideal number. (I have a solution for that, though.) The forty western wards (including Belvoir) do not quite divide as neatly, but I've found a line that I think can work, though it means the boundary between the new North West and South West Belfast constituencies snakes through the streets of the Lower Falls.

Outside Belfast, it struck me that several constituencies are already within the Boundary Commission's set limits for the 17 new constituencies: Foyle, Fermanagh and South Tyrone, South Down, Newry and Armagh, Lagan Valley and North Antrim. Upper Bann is actually above the upper allowed limit already. So I rejigged the boundaries of Foyle, Fermanagh and South Tyrone, South Down, and Newry and Armagh to fit the new DEA and ward boundaries, and got fairly satisfactory results. If the Commission decides to minimise the (major) amendments to existing boundaries that must take place, that would fix those four fairly quickly.

Turning now to County Down, you really have to start by uniting the Ards peninsula with the current North Down constituency. That gives you a seat that is just a little too big – but remember I said that East Belfast is on the small side? Transferring one North Down and Ards ward (Loughview) from North Down to East Belfast fixes both problems. Strangford then also turns out to be fairly easy; if you give it the voters outside the Belfast Council area who are currently in Belfast constituencies, you get a nice block of wards from the former Castlereagh and Ards councils (and three from further south as at present). The boundary between Upper Bann and Lagan Valley unfortunately becomes a bit scraggly, because of the much larger wards; part of the solution may be to split some of the more awkward wards between constituencies.

Let's pause in the East, and look West. If we're allowed to keep both Foyle and Fermanagh and South Tyrone more or less as they are, allowing for the new ward boundaries, then West Tyrone, already undersized, has no option but to annex three wards (Oaklands, Pomeroy and Donaghmore) from Mid Ulster – it looks like a big chunk on the map, but in fact is much less in terms of population. Mid Ulster similarly must annex five wards (Garvagh, Kilrea, Altahullion, Dungiven and Feeny) from East Londonderry, or rather from the new Causeway Coast and Glens council. What's left of East Londonderry now needs to stretch so far into Antrim that a renaming is in order; if you add to it all but one of the new Causeway Coast and Glens council's DEA's, that one being The Glens, you get a decent number of voters. So I propose a new Causeway Coast seat taking in a lot of East Londonderry and some of North Antrim.

We're doing well here; basically all that's left is the rest of County Antrim and the fringes of Lisburn and Lurgan. Last time round, the Boundary Commission's provisional recommendations were to create two east-west seats in County Antrim, one linking Ballymena, Larne and Carrickfergus, and the other linking Antrim town and Newtownabbey. I and others argued that it would be much better to have two north-south seats, one linking Larne, Carrickfergus and Newtownabbey and the other linking Ballymena and Antrim town, and the Boundary Commisson adopted that reasoning (specifically, my recommendations) in its revised proposals. I think the numbers and geography make the north-south seats the obvious option this time. You can construct a convincing Mid Antrim seat from just the five DEAs around Ballymena and Antrim town. The southern borders of East Antrim can be tweaked – at the last moment I put Ballyclare in and took out most of the Three Mile Water DEA, apart from Jordanstown – but the fundamentals are sound; the coast road is a real artery linking the constituency.

South Antrim and Lagan Valley are the losers here, basically being the bits left over that coudn't be fitted anywhere else. I'm not ecstatic about a South Antrim seat that stretches from Newtownabbey around Belfast to the northern fringes of Lisburn, but the numbers elsewhere don't leave much option, and actually it's not so different from the original South Antrim seats created in 1950. Similarly I'm not happy with a Lagan Valley that goes as far south as Rathfriland and whose western boundary dances through the back streets of Lurgan, but no better alternative jumped out at me. Once you have the coastal constituencies sorted out, you have to manage the land in the middle. No doubt those who have access to better equipment (and perhaps more time on their hands) than me will be able to improve on this. As I said above, I think the inherent (and unavoidable) clumsiness of some of the ward boundaries in crucial geographical locations will propel the Boundary Commission to breach them.

Last time round, the Boundary Commission for Scotland was able to provide lots of cool build-your-own-map online tools for budding electoral engineers. I hope that the Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland will be able to follow suit this time, though I appreciate that resources may be scarcer for a territory with a third of Scotland's population, and also that data visualisation for Northern Ireland is complicated by the messy disjunction between old and new wards. But here's hoping.

Who would win these seats? The last election delivered 8 DUP, 4 SF, 3 SDLP, 2 UUP and one independent (Lady Silvia Hermon). The picture is of course complicated by the 2015 electoral pact between Unionist parties in some constituencies. The UUP's narrowly won seat in South Antrim would be partitioned between neighbours with much stronger DUP support, so I think it would fall. That DUP gain, however, is offset by the new situation in three-seat Belfast, where SF look very competitive in both Belfast North West, effectively a gain from the DUP, and Belfast South West, effectively a gain from the SDLP. The new Belfast East would have (just) been DUP on last year's figures, but would be very competitive for the Alliance Party in a good year, especially without a Unionist electoral pact. So I see (on the 2015 figures only) net losses for the UUP and SDLP, and a net gain for SF. (I'm sure that the Ards Peninsula would have voted for Lady Sylvia Hermon if they had a chance.) Future elections will of course have different boundaries, different candidates and a different political environment; the one thing we can be certain of is that nothing is certain.

These seats will also be used for the 2021 Assembly election, where each will elect only 5 MLAs rather than six as at present, for a total of 85. By that time the *next* round of boundary revisions will also be kicking off; and thanks to the blunt arithmetic of the system, the number of seats could quite likely change again to 16 or 18 – and thanks to the 5% limit on variation, further major changes will be necessary to the map, even if the number of seats remains the same. This of course means further disruption of local electoral and political ties. It would be much better if Assembly constituencies were tied to the new local government districts, which are presumably going to be with us for a while, rather than the ephemeral, shifting and secondary Westminster constituencies. But perhaps that's a discussion for another day.

Seats in detail:

North West Belfast (71,511)

Belfast Council
All of Castle, Oldpark and Court DEA's (21,678 + 21,604 + 21,314)
Beechmount and Ballymurphy wards from Black Mountain DEA (6,915)

South West Belfast (75,302)

Belfast Council
All of Collin and Balmoral DEAs (22,559 + 17,396)
Blackstaff, Central, Stranmillis, and Windsor wards from Botanic DEA (16,483)
Andersonstown, Collin Glen, Falls Park, Shaw's Road, and Turf Lodge wards from Black Mountain DEA (18,504)

East Belfast (74,178)

Belfast Council
All of Ormiston, Titanic and Lisnasharragh DEA's (25,166 + 21,830 + 20,384)
Ormeau ward from Botanic DEA (3,655)

North Down and Ards Council
Loughview ward from Holywood and Clandeboye DEA (3,413)

North Down (76,992)

North Down and Ards Council
All of Ards Peninsula, Bangor East and Donaghadee, Bangor Central and Bangor West DEAs (17,051 + 17,246 + 17,721 + 13,601)
Clandeboye, Cultra, Helen's Bay and Holywood wards from Holywood and Clandeboye DEA (11,373)

Strangford 73,814

North Down and Ards Council
All of Comber and Newtownards DEAs (13,909 + 20,402)

Lisburn and Castlereagh Council
All of Castlereagh East and Castlereagh South DEAs (14,128 + 16,600)

Newry, Mourne and Down Council
Derryboy, Kilmore and Saintfield wards from Rowallane DEA (8,775)

South Down (73,711)

Newry, Mourne and Down Council
All of Downpatrick, Slieve Croob, The Mournes and Crotlieve DEAs (14,337 + 14,178 + 20,938 + 18,909)
Ballynahinch and Crossgar & Killyleagh wards from Rowallane DEA (5,889)

Newry and Armagh (78,182)

Newry, Mourne and Down Council
All of Newry and Slieve Gullion DEAs (18,934 + 19,957)

Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council
All of Armagh and Cusher DEAs (21,483 + 17,808)

Upper Bann

Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council
All of Craigavon and Portadown DEAs (18,008 + 21,018)
Banbridge North, Banbridge South, Banbridge West, Gilford and Loughbrickland wards from Banbridge DEA (17,342)
Knocknashane, Lough Road, Mourneview, Parklake, and Shankill wards from Lurgan DEA (17,559)

Lagan Valley (73,812)

Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council
All of Lagan River DEA (16,628)
Banbridge East and Rathfriland wards from Banbridge DEA (6,543)
Aghagallon and Magheralin wards from Lurgan DEA (6,861)

Lisburn and Castlereagh Council
All of Downshire East, Downshire West and Lisburn South DEAs (11,880 + 11,966 + 15,040)
Hilden and Lambeg wards from Lisburn North DEA (4,894)

South Antrim (77,612)

Lisburn and Castlereagh Council
All of Killultagh DEA (13,492)
Derryaghy, Harmony Hill, Magheralave, and Wallace Park wards from Lisburn North DEA (9,840)

Antrim and Newtownabbey Council
All of Airport, Glengormley Urban and Macedon DEAs (13,269 + 15,820 + 13,442)
Ballyduff, Fairview, Jordanstown, Monkstown, Mossley, and Rostulla wards of Three Mile Water DEA (11,749)

Mid Antrim (74,074)

Antrim and Newtownabbey Council
All of Dunsilly and Antrim DEAs (12,219 + 14,646)

Mid and East Antrim Council
All of Ballymena, Bannside and Braid DEAs (16,132 + 14,309 + 16,768)

East Antrim (78,267)

Antrim and Newtownabbey Council
All of Ballyclare DEA (12,635)
Jordanstown ward of Three Mile Water DEA (2,456)

Mid and East Antrim Council
All of Carrick Castle, Coast Road, Knockagh and Larne Lough DEAs (13,132 + 12,524 + 12,310 + 13,032)

Causeway Coast and Glens Council
All of The Glens DEA (12,178)

Coleraine and Causeway Coast (73,469)

Causeway Coast and Glens Council
All of Ballymoney, Causeway, Coleraine and Limavady DEAs (17,096 + 16,821 + 15,656 + 11,143)
Aghadowey, Castlerock and Macosquin wards from Bann DEA (7,510)
Bellykelly and Greysteel wards from Benbradagh DEA (5,243)

Foyle (74,539)

Derry and Strabane Council
All of Ballyarnet, Faughan, Foyleside, The Moor and Waterside DEAs (16,588 + 13,252 + 13,090 + 12,727 + 18,942)

Mid Ulster (72,703)

Mid Ulster Council
All of Carntogher, Magherafelt, and Moyola DEAs (11,913 + 12,800 + 12,382)
Coagh, Cookstown East, Cookstown South, Cookstown West and Loughry wards from Cookstown DEA (11,399)
Ardboe, Coalisland North, Coalisland South, Stewartstown, and Washing Bay wards from Torrent DEA (12,370)

Causeway Coast and Glens Council
Garvagh and Kilrea wards from Bann DEA (4,907)
Altahullion, Dungiven and Feeny wards from Benbradagh DEA (6,932)

West Tyrone

Derry and Strabane Council
All of Derg and Sperrin DEAs (12,703 + 17,509)

Fermanagh and Omagh Council
All of Mid Tyrone, Omagh and West Tyrone DEAs (12,005 + 12,602 + 11,929)

Mid Ulster Council
Oaklands and Pomeroy wards from Cookstown DEA (4,926)
Donaghmore ward from Torrent DEA (2,590)

Fermanagh and South Tyrone (74,339)

Fermanagh and Omagh Council
All of Enniskillen, Erne East, Erne North and Erne West DEAs (12,796 + 11,725 + 10,666 + 10,504)

Mid Ulster Council
All of Clogher Valley and Dungannon DEAs (14,239 + 14,409)

Other permutations are of course possible, particularly in Counties Antrim and Down, but I think the end result will not be too far from what I sketch above.


  • hugh mccloy

    Why don’t they just go with the council boundaries, needless to say gerrymandering

  • hotdogx

    Wouldn’t boundary changes here bring a slight advantage to nationalist parties? Reflecting the actual position of the population now due to demographic Changes

  • Gopher

    South Antrim and Lagan Valley are ludicrous. Lisburn is now meant now to be a City not a “loser” and South Antrim is a nonsense you have homogenous areas to its North and you expand to its south. Looks like a gerrymander to me.

  • Zig70

    Have to say, can’t agree with East Antrim, an MP from the glens is never going to think about folk near 3mile water in a million years. It’s hard to get some parties to even bother canvasing there currently.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    Allegations of gerrymandering at this stage are simply ridiculous and lazy thinking. This isn’t even an official proposal, it’s my educated guess as to what the Boundary Commission will come up with in the very restrictive mandate that has been handed to it with the express political purpose of reducing the number of Labour MPs elected from Wales.

    If you think that it is all really a conspiracy to deprive the voters of Lisburn of their democratic rights, you are free to do so. But unless you can show an alternative arrangement that works better within the rules, there’s not much point in having the conversation. (And if you are starting from the position that all electoral boundaries are gerrymandered, there’s no point in having this conversation at all.)

  • Nicholas Whyte

    Yes, more likely than not. But the problem is that there are some areas of strongly concentrated Nationalist vote, which depresses their representation in a single seat system, unless those areas get divided up between neighbouring districts (which is what happens to West Belfast in my imaginary map).

    A proportional system would smooth out a lot of that, of course.

  • Andrew Gallagher

    The southern extremities of UB and LV could be moved into south down. The UB/LV boundary could then be shifted east, as could LV/strangford. Then strangford could reclaim the balance from south down.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    That may well be the answer. I wasn’t able to work out a solution that worked better than my proposal but I devoted only a flu-ridden day in bed to it, and there may be better options out there.

    Part of the problem is the new Loughbrickland ward which is very long east-west; just putting the depopulated eastern half of it into South Down would immediately make the map look better – but that means splitting a ward, which the Commission has been reluctant to do in the past.

  • Paddy Reilly

    I like the 16 seater: it has a chunky fairness which resembles the constituencies of the 50s and 60s. The 17 seater looks like it was drawn by a spider on acid.

  • Paddy Reilly

    The difficulty with gerrymandering allegations is that a system that gives an advantage to one side in Westminster probably will have a different effect in Stormont.

    Nevertheless the gerrymander is a cultural archetype which stems from Governor Gerry’s salamander shaped entity. Any constituency which is long and thin will attract this accusation, whether it is unfair or not.

  • Robin Keogh

    Thanks Nicholas. Very comprehensive. It would be better if the new constituencies have proportionately balanced populations. Whatever way it is cut there will be all sorts of accusations thrown about but in the absence of alternative Idear it looks as if your suggestions are pretty balanced and fair. Are the numbers of seats due to be reduced from six to five? I thought I read that somewhere?

  • Gopher

    The average size of a 17 constituency Northern Ireland is going to be something like 73K. Lagan Valley has 71K voters it is a viable and geographical sensible constituency. It was decided that it should be “bent” out of geographical sanity for local government and now it is getting pulled in the other direction totally out of whack with its other governmental demarcation lines for Westminister. If a slight ajustment along the Strangford boundary is deemed too sensible to find 2000 voters, it is after all in its local government area Belfast could give up a housing estate, some of them are nearer Lisburn than Belfast anyway.

    Looking at the map you see other anomalies. You cant put the North Belfast foreshore into East Antrim but Rathlin obviously has a lot in common with Carrickfergus! Whilst South Antrim Gets a warm water port I see. When it suits it seems geography is important. You Obviously cant merge North and East Belfast simply because of the Lagan and put the overspill in South and West Belfast You can put Lisburn in Lurgan and Dundonald in various boundary changes but you cant merge working class areas because somehow geography is important. Nope a Gerrymander pure and simple its obvious.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    Thanks. I can’t claim perfection, merely to have given it a good try.

    I’m not really convinced that constituency size should be so narrowly controlled. The tight variation limits inevitably lead to strangely shaped boundaries which are an imperfect match for local identity, and I’d prefer to go back to 10% variation for more local flexibility. (Of course I’d really prefer a proportional system, but that ain’t coming any time soon.)

    The reduction from six Assembly seats to five per constituency was politically agreed st Stormont House in late 2014; I’m not sure if it has been legislated yet though.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    I agree with your last sentence Nicholas – But very good informative post. Glad I am not the Boundaries Commission having to sort it out with the muppet politicians we have up on the hill !

  • Nicholas Whyte

    Geography actually *is* important, like it or not. You can’t have a seat straddling Belfast Lough, or Lough Neagh for that matter. Yelling “gerrymander” is just lazy, and actually irrelevant since my suggestions have zero legislative force.

    My starting point was that Belfast now naturally has three seats, and that disruption to the south and west can be minimised. On that basis I generated the map. The Boundary Commission may well do it differently.

    If you or anyone is willing to sit down with a map and spreadsheet and show me how Lagan Valley and South Antrim can be preserved, I’ll take that very seriously.

  • Gopher

    After the joke that is Dundonald in the local government review I don’t think saying Gerrymander is lazy I believe it is a statement of reality. Geography I see does not stop South Antrim reaching the sea or has that got something to do with North Belfast? I suspect it is the latter.

    Belfast must be reduced to three seats that I agree but the way to achieve that is making two seats out of presently North Down, Strangford and South Belfast. Geographically sensible,uncontroversial and homogenous. East Belfast and Lagan Valley can be topped up from that surplus again geograpically sensible and largely homogenous. What of South Belfast you cannot include ie inside the outer ring (actual Belfast) you include in West Belfast and move the surplus into North Belfast. Surplus’s from North Belfast can be moved to East Antrim and South Antrim along their revelant geographical axis (not like South Antrim on that map). again geographically sensible. Essentially I imagine that North Belfast would become the “working class” constituency of Belfast. whilst West Belfast would have an unavoidable mix of social class and political parties, as city centres do with domination problematical.

    East Antrim, South Antrim and Lagan Valley have their natural geographical area preserved with this method.

  • Gingray

    Gopher – while the Dundonald issue at local government is indeed a joke, I am not sure why you are yelling Gerrymander at Nick here?

    You owe him an apology I think.

    He has looked at the existing constituencies, the fact we are reducing to 17, and the rules of the boundary commission and made a prediction. It could be spot on, but it could be totally wrong, but what it is not is fact.

    I would be interested to see how you would design the 17 constituencies for Northern Ireland? Nick has kindly posted all the information, perhaps you could give it a rough go and put your suggestion below?

  • Gingray

    Great article Nicholas – there is room for improvement I think around the N&A, UB, LV and South Down constituencies, but as you say, it will involve splitting wards.

    I cannot see your proposal being accepted as it is more favourable to sinn fein and alliance however, DUP will be less concerned about winning a seat of a unionist party than losing one to republicans.

    Whatever happens tho, if Belfast is a 3 seater, then East and North/West will become very competitive.

  • WindowLean

    Very interesting post Nicholas. BTW for complete accuracy isn’t it Danny Kinahan who holds South Antrim?

  • Kevin Breslin

    After 19 Comments, I cannot believe I’m the first to mention that the UUP MP in South Antrim is Danny Kinahan not Danny Kennedy.

    And South West Belfast wouldn’t effectively be a net gain for Sinn Féin if they were to take it, since Sinn Féin already have West Belfast.

    Most likely Sinn Féin net gain is Fermanagh and South Tyrone, maybe North West Belfast in the post Gerry Kelly era.

    This possible merger is likely to hit Sinn Féin in its strongest constituency, where it has 5 seats between two, it may end up with 2 under a 5 seat SW Belfast. Correct me if I’m wrong but SF or the SDLP have an outside chance of an East Belfast seat under the new boundaries.

    Not sure if going to an 85 MLA Assembly is guaranteed though, it is likely a top up system may be introduced.

  • Cavehill

    The reduction in numbers bill passed through the Assembly recently, mandating that the numbers will reduce to 5 at the next election after 2016 (which is meant to be 2021 but could as ever be earlier if things don’t go well).

  • Slater

    Saying “my starting point is that Belfast now has naturally 3 seats” is like saying the earth has long been assumed to be flat. At best this is just conventional wisdom
    There should be no starting point in this review bar the numeric details as to how many voters there are in each current constituency, the statutory size limits, the council ward boundaries and then the geography etc.
    A non-political starting point might be to retain the current constituencies on the edge of NI which meet the limits and then work through the rest.

  • fralycis

    An excellent analysis and could be feasible. However, it is worrying that by reducing our capital city’s constituencies to 3, along with the incoming reduction of MLAs from 6 to 5, Belfast is losing representation substantially – in effect, from 24 to 15 (a loss of 37.5%?)
    I firmly believe that Belfast needs to retain strong political representation in the Assembly. If there was a cut to 17 constituencies, surely dividing Mid Ulster is much more sensible (Glenshane constituency seems to work in the initial plans to reduce to 16?)
    Even if some alternative that would increase the size of all 4 Belfast constituencies into ‘Greater Belfast’ territories to still achieve the 75000 mark would be much preferable to the uncomfortable remodelling of the 3 new constituencies.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I think given that East (previously said South) Belfast and West Belfast have two of the smallest populations of constituencies … mergers seem likely.

    The outer regions biggest constituencies of Newry and Armagh and North Antrim should creep out to the east and fill the conurbation zones in a domino effect.

  • Kevin Breslin

    West Belfast would have an unavoidable mix of social class and political parties, as city centres do with domination problematical.

    You mean like South Belfast now has, I fail to see the problem with the mixing of classes in a city. We should encourage the desegregation of Belfast, not just along ethno-religious basis but class basis too.

    I live in Foyle, should I get upset about the terrace housing of Bogside-Brandywell, Fountain, Creggan etc. being in the same constituency as higher quality houses around the Gleneagles end of the Culmore Road?

    Absolutely not.

  • Gingray

    Yup – exactly!

  • Kevin Breslin

    Belfast is clearly over-represented on a one man one vote basis as things stand.

    If the three constituencies become among the biggest constituencies I see no problem with them retaining 6 seat status, but it could be the case that other constituencies like Newry and Armagh and what Nick has as Mid Antrim may still be bigger than some of these constituencies population wise.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I think the advantage is very slight, given that we could see electoral pacts across two or all three “Belfast” regions by mainstream Unionist parties.

  • mjh

    I think you are right, Slater.

    Last time the Boundary Commission did exactly that. At the beginning of its considerations it produced a number of pro-types – one starting in the south west with Fermanagh, another in the north west with Derry and a third in the south east with Newry before moving on to make choices between them and refinements. I don’t believe it did one starting with Belfast (although I stand to be corrected).

    There is certainly no requirement for them to make Belfast into three seats. But they do have to take into account local government boundaries which would make them inclined to favour that solution if the alternative were to result in more constituencies crossing more council boundaries.

    Whatever solution is eventually decided is bound to look strange somewhere compared to what we have been used to. Anyone crying foul about Nicholas’s suggestion should at least take the time and trouble to come up with something they believe to be better, with exact boundaries and electoral numbers as he has done. Whether they succeed or not they will find the process much harder than they imagine.

  • fralycis

    Yes, I agree that if Belfast being over represented (as it stands) would need to add electoral wards totalling around 15000 to be able to make a strong enough argument to retain 4 constituencies. Surely for example there’s scope for a Greater East Belfast to take in some of parts of North Down and Strangford, South Belfast to take in parts of Strangford and Lagan Valley, North and West Belfast to eat into chunks of Lagan Valley, East Antrim and South Antrim.
    Then, surely adjust the diminished constituencies outside of Belfast to eventually create a slightly smaller Glenshane/FST section? E.g. Upper Bann already has a large electorate but Lagan Valley takes some of its electorate and this has a knock on effect to make Glenshane a viable option? Obviously I’m not expert on electoral wards outside Greater Belfast, and just throwing an idea out there.

    But yes, I do agree that 3 six-seat constituencies in an 88 seat remodelled Assembly (versus 85), then that would be another fair solution.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    Heh! Thanks for that!!!! Will change now, giving you and Windowlean due credit.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    Sure, SW Belfast is not a net gain for SF but it is a net loss for the SDLP. I wouldn’t be surprised to see SF with a chance of 3 out of 5 there. But I haven’t crunched the numbers.

    And absolutely, there should be a chance of a Nationalist seat in the new East Belfast. Again, I haven’t been able to crunch the numbers yet, but both the SDLP and SF have a councillor each in the area, which surely puts them in the zone.

  • Gopher

    I think people move to the suburbs for a reason which boils down to an improvement of quality of life. I have no problem mixing people in city centres, I just don’t believe they should dominate the suburbs when there is a clearly defined geographical catchment area for those city areas. In constituencies where gentrified areas which incidently appear on the parameters more often than not can just as easily and with less aggravation be incorperated in other constituencies like North Belfast and East Antrim and North Belfast and South Antrim I don’t see a problem. Encircling North Belfast with South Antrim so as its Nothern border can’t move while adding 10,000 souls from from the centre upsets the social balance without recourse. Sorry it just seems someone is engineering just too hard.

  • Richard Gadsden

    It would be much better if Assembly constituencies were tied to the new
    local government districts, which are presumably going to be with us for
    a while, rather than the ephemeral, shifting and secondary Westminster
    constituencies. But perhaps that’s a discussion for another day.

    It seems to me that one of the big advantages of multi-member constituencies is that they don’t all have to be the same size; a larger constituency can simply have more members, so there’s no need to change the boundaries as populations move.

    Having a fixed number of MLAs (say 100) divided between the 11 local government districts (by the St-Laguë formula used to allocate MPs between the four countries of the UK and MEPs between the English regions and the three other countries) seems far better than trying to use a varying set of rather arbitrary constituencies.

    You’d probably need to divide Belfast into two to prevent having a constituency with 15 MLAs and an unmanageable ballot paper with 50+ names on, but the other 10 districts make perfectly reasonable constituencies.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The main engineering problem is 1 person 1 vote as much as possible across all constituencies.

    Effectively 1 constituency has to go from Belfast and its commuter belt. Arguably the newest constituency of West Tyrone might go (92,055) but it’s surrounded by 4 average sized constituencies anyway and Belfast has significantly depopulated since then compared to regional trends.

    NB: This is based on populations not electorate but probably a better reflection of how things may be at the next general election.


    Belfast East 93,941
    Belfast West 94,639
    Belfast North 103,115
    Belfast South 112,544

    Antrim Belfast Commuter Belt.

    East Antrim 90,065
    South Antrim 100,745

    Down Belfast Commuter Belt
    North Down 90,111
    Strangford 90,285
    Lagan Valley 104,621

    Upper Bann 122,099

    The two smallest constituencies population wise are East and West Belfast, the smallest constituency on the Commuter Belt are East Antrim and North Down. (I had previously said South Belfast was one of the smallest constituencies, but it isn’t.)

    The main argument for the reduction of Belfast into 3 is the ability to manage it. Nicolas has managed it using super-council boundaries

    Having 4 Belfast constituencies means dividing large parts of Lisburn and Castlereagh Council area into West Belfast and South Belfast, moving parts of Antrim and Newtonabbey Council into North Belfast, and large parts of North Down and Ards into East Belfast.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The local government districts being the new Assembly constituencies cannot be ruled out but you may still need to carve up Belfast however.

  • emcg575797

    At the 2014 council elections NI had a total electorate of 1,274,217. So for 17 seats you need to average about 75,000 voters. Belfast City council had an electorate of 218,803, so that is just under three.

    I got the figures at.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    Just to be clear – it’s the 1 December 2015 figures that will be used from this page:

    Belfast City Council then had a total electorate of 217,848 of a total for NI of 1,270,696 (that’s local government voters; parliamentary voters are a little different). In any case, your basic point is correct, it’s still a shade under 3/17.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Wouldn’t the dynamic for a new south west Belfast constituency give cause to believe that unionists may vote for an SDLP candidate?

  • Nicholas Whyte

    What a strange question!

    Of course we know that people who usually vote Unionist sometimes vote SDLP. Two of the three current SDLP MPs benefited from this in last year’s election. It’s hardly news.

    The question could be better framed: “Could the SDLP establish themselves as the main competition to SF in the new South West Belfast seat to the extent of attracting votes from those who normally vote Unionist?” There’s a lot of hypotheticals there, and I think my answer is that it would take at least one electoral cycle even if the first part of the proposition could be convincingly demonstrated.

    However, I failed to predict the McDonnell win in 2005, so what do I know?

  • Gopher

    A large percentage of South Belfast’s population is made up of adults from abroad who wont have the vote. You cannot use population as a guide only what is on the electoral roll. There is also a small matter of a university and its accomodation in South Belfast.

  • Gopher

    I think my suggestions are clear enough. You have several constituencies that are too small and by that I mean 10,000 shy of 73K. The Smallest is West Belfast. If you get rid of that you displace some 62k souls that are already in a homogeneous area and put then into areas that are totally upsetting all balance in Belfast. Essentially that is what Nicholas is doing whilst keeping Belfast’s artificial boundaries in some areas like North Belfast and not in others Like East Belfast. In fact he is giving South Antrim a corridor to the sea to prevent North Belfasts boundary changing or some of its population escaping to socially simmiliar constituencies. So forgive me if I am dubious

    I firmly believe Belfast should have three constituencies and as far as possible constituencies should make geographical and homogeneous sense.

    To do that there are four small constituencies in Northern Ireland. West Tyrone, Strangford, Northdown and East Antrim that can be the fall guy. You get rid of West Tyrone you get rid of a constituency furthest from the problem in Belfast so that rules it out.

    You get rid of East Antrim which basically in a dispassionate world is the single best option you get the Northern Ireland eqvilalent of the Schleswig-Holstein Question ie North Belfast coming into view very quickly. So nope that is too sensitive as Dundonald proved

    That leaves North Down and Ards which resides in the most uncontroversial and homogeneous areas whose merger will not disenfranchise anyone unlike Nicholas’s engineering. But that does not solve the need for the Belfast 3 so you throw East Belfast in the pot again nobody is disenfranchised The problem here is what to do with the surplus as it will have to go into South Belfast and that will cause concern so again simplicity is our friend, South Belfast goes in the pot so we get 3 out of 4 the surplus we stick in West Belfast and call it South West Belfast which gives that constituency a surplus which we put into North Belfast and we call that North West Belfast.

    North West Belfast now has a surplus which is put into South Antrim and East Antrim along their geographical Axis and that’s job done every other border is just minor tweaking.

    For those interested I imagine it will look like this

    So we have Belfast East (Unionist v Alliance) Belfast SouthWest (SDLP v Alliance v SF ) and Belfast North West (SF)

    Unionists minus one seat, other parties unchanged

  • Gingray

    Sorry, you are making this hard to understand – you say Belfast should have 3 seats and East Antrim should go, that would bring us to 16 seats, but Northern Ireland will have 17?

    Now in terms of proposals, you seem to be suggesting much the same as Nick for Belfast, ie 3 seats, one of which is east divided by the lagan, and a north west and a south west.

    So why are you claiming Gerrymander?

    Because Nicks proposals are coming in around the same, the big question is around North West Belfast and whether its enough for SF or whether the DUP can hold on.

  • Gopher

    I think geographically merging the North Belfast, East Antrim, South Antrim North Antrim and getting 3 seats from them makes most sense and best traction to shunt surplus’s to other constituencies from the remaining three but as I say I dont think Nationalists would accept North Belfast in its new configaration being unionist. So no I would not scrap anything there.

    Nicholas as Im explaining is splitting up a homogeneous area West Belfast to displace the population North and South. I’m not for displacing homogeneous areas and disenfranchising residents. Nicholas plan you would see 2 SF and 1 Alliance which is absolutely nonsensical given the last election essentially a gerrymander creating artificial minorities

  • Gingray

    Gopher – I would not disagree with that, and well worth making a submission to the boundary commission.

    But Nicks suggestion is building on the blocks established around the 16 seat proposal, and works on the fact that the Belfast area has just under 3 seats worth of people.

    In regards West Belfast being homogenous, not sure I agree, the Malone, Finaghy and Dunmurry parts are packed full of Westies, while the Shankill and Lower Falls (the older more established parts of the West) have always been closer to Ballysillan and the Ardoyne.

    If you retain 4 seats in Belfast, what wards are you adding in to South, West, North and East Belfast?

  • Gopher

    I’m not retaining 4 seats in Belfast Im creating a 3 seat city using the surplus from North Down, Strangford, East Belfast and South Belfast turning into 3 seats. Nicholas is creating a 3 seat city using West Belfast.

  • Gingray


    So using your accusation against Nick, you are Gerrymandering to ensure Nationalism loses a seat?


  • Kevin Breslin

    It comes down to proportionality, the largest section of the population is young people who cannot vote many of whom will register. We can talk migrants and students living in SB disrupting how proportionate the eligible electorate is to the turnout, but the bigger issue I was making is that 4 constituencies in Belfast needing parts of Lisburn, Newtonabbey etc.

    The fact SB may be smaller than I suggest actually makes this worse

  • Kevin Breslin

    A lot depends on how much of West Belfast gets thrown into the new North Belfast.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Well to be fair, it’s up to the boundary commission not the NI caucus at Westminster to decide these.

    If it means SDLP losing South Belfast to have to grow support in a new arrangement in Belfast it simply means improving “cross-border” thinking within Belfast too.

    Most important thing to me is the balance of the constituencies to as equal a number as possible. If anything rural wards should be the beneficiaries of smaller populations given they require more of an effort to provide services for.

  • Gingray

    Indeed, but its fun seeing how nearly every proposal will either advantage or disadvantage one grouping, particularly in terms of Westminster.

    Living in East Belfast, it would be nice to have at least one seat at Stormont that was competitive for the SDLP/SF.

  • Greenflag 2

    Very impressive piece of political foresighting . If it ends up being the ‘fix ‘ then it would appear that both major cities in NI will elect nationalist /republican majorities and results elsewhere will not change all that much or am I oversimplifying ?

  • Ryan A

    Because one council has 140,000 voters and others around 90,000.

  • Ryan A

    Worth noting during the last review the DUP gave off bucket loads to the Boundary Commissioner over East Belfast losing Dundonald and gaining Ravenhill, Ormeau, Stranmillis and the Four Winds which is much more likely to tactically go for Alliance in a contest against the DUP. The Commission didn’t budge an inch.

  • Ryan A

    The result is you get one/two seats with a very suburban feel in addition to the three Belfast seats. I honestly believe that might actually improve things for those that live in the suburbs vs the current situation where they are existing to make up the numbers IMO.

    One alternative (and probably very controversial) idea would be to bring Urban Carrick, Urban Newtownabbey and a little bit of Castle from North Belfast together to form a ‘Belfast Lough/Foreshore’ seat with what’s left in Belfast being enough for three with seats with a little of Castlereagh South included.

  • Gopher

    Had a closer look over the weekend and its tough. The Gerrymander that is Belfast City Council makes in very hard to make 3 seats out of 212k. The pricinples I attacked the problem with are trying to keep areas homogeneous and geographically sensible, making Belfast 3 seats and not creating an idiotic political situation..

    I admit I was wrong after trying hard to make it work, you just cant make a viable 3 seat Belfast merging East Belfast, South Belfast, Strangford and North Down. The problem still remains with North Belfast. So if the problem is North Belfast the solution is North Belfast. I am sure Nigel will happily return to the assembly.

    The New North Down

    DONAGHADEE 2,890
    WARREN 2,952
    GROOMSPORT 2,857.00
    BALLYHOLME 2,891.00
    BALLYMAGEE 2,995
    BROADWAY 2,768
    HARBOUR 3,006
    BRYANSBURN 2,863
    RATHGAEL 2,462
    RATHMORE 2,890
    KILCOOLEY 2,714
    HELEN’S BAY 2,790
    CLANDEBOYE 2,717
    CULTRA 2,915
    PORTAVOGIE 2,569
    KIRCUBBIN 2,920
    PORTAVOGIE 2,569
    CARROWDORE 2,917
    LOUGHRIES 2,830


    The new Strangford or more apt East Down

    GLEN 3,056
    CRONSTOWN 3,198
    MOVILLA 2,549
    GREGSTOWN 2,537
    SCRABO 3,078
    WEST WINDS 2,843
    COMBER WEST 2,681
    COMBER NORTH 2,738
    COMBER SOUTH 2,750
    BALLYGOWAN 3,063
    KILLINCHY 2,590
    SAINTFIELD 3,006
    DERRYBOY 2,920
    KILMORE 2,817
    MONEYREAGH 2,126
    CAIRNSHILL 2,385
    GALWALLY 2,304
    BEECHILL 2,396


    East Belfast
    ENLER 2,175
    DUNDONALD 2,243
    SYDENHAM 3,333
    STORMONT 3,667
    GILNAHIRK 3,563
    BELMONT 3,534
    KNOCK 3,658
    SANDOWN 3,207
    SHANDON 3,755
    CONNSWATER 3,532
    LOUGHVIEW 2,846
    HOLYWOOD 3,117
    HILLFOOT 3,588
    MEROK 3,085
    RAVENHILL 3,062
    CREGAGH 3,150
    WOODSTOCK 3,072


    The new South or South West Belfast

    ROSETTA 3,636
    ORMEAU 3,409
    CENTRAL 4,342
    BLACKSTAFF 3,682
    WINDSOR 3,804
    BELVOIR 3,422
    MUSGRAVE 3,472
    MALONE 3,399
    UPPER MALONE 3,470
    FINAGHY 3,406
    LADYBROOK 3,632
    DUNMURRY 3,774
    TWINBROOK 3,338
    POLEGLASS 3,677
    LAGMORE 4,409
    SHAW’S ROAD 3,816
    COLLIN GLEN 3,888


    North West Belfast

    FALLS PARK 3,646
    BEECHMOUNT 3,497
    TURF LODGE 3,472
    FALLS 3,237
    CLONARD 3,665
    FORTH RIVER 3,112
    WOODVALE 3,087
    DUNCAIRN 3,731
    NEW LODGE 3,310
    WATER WORKS 3,757
    ARDOYNE 3,645
    LEGONIEL 3,540
    CAVEHILL 3,295
    INNISFAYLE 3,700


    Unionists lose a seat nationalists remain on two seats and nobody need worry about North Belfast ever again. No Unionist pacts no Gerry Kelly adverts all sorted out.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    I admit I was wrong

    Well, I guess I’ll have to accept that, though I think you could have moderated your tone a bit in earlier discussion. As it turns out, your boundaries are almost identical to mine, apart from:

    1) You have two Portavogies and no Portaferry (easily done, and the numbers are almost the same)
    2) You put the North Down wards of Holywood as well as Loughview into East Belfast
    3) You move the three Dundonald wards into East Belfast, and compensate Strangford with Ballynahinch and Crossgar from South Down
    4) Your South West Belfast includes Ormeau and Rosetta but not Falls Park and Turf Lodge which go to your North Belfast
    5) Your North Belfast doesn’t include Bellevue, which presumably goes into one of the Antrim constituencies.

    All well and good; I think those are viable enough as far as they go, if your goal is to credibly keep Dundonald with East Belfast. Looking wider afield, my gut feeling that while that may make it possible to tidy up the heart of County Down a bit, the result is likely to be if anything slightly more messy than my own (admittedly messy enough) suggestions in northern Lisburn town and in Newtownabbey.

    Let’s keep discussing, but please keep the tone more temperate in future.

  • Gingray

    Fair play for admitting you got it wrong. It’s just mighty difficult to find something that fits exactly without hurting one party or another.

  • mjh

    I don’t see the obsession with trying to construct boundaries that will be “fair” to one party – or even to all parties. That is putting the cart before the horse.

    It is perfectly possible that the same boundaries could “benefit” or “harm” a particular party when used for Westminster, and produce the opposite effect when used for the Assembly. Nicholas’s proposal certainly appears to have that effect. The 2014 Local Government vote applied to these boundaries would most likely produce a loss of one unionist Westminster seat – and so be good for nationalism. Applied to the Assembly with 5 member constituencies and there appears to be a unionist bonus. But how much of that is to do with the change to five seats, and how much to the change in the proportion of votes for unionism, nationalism and the centre rather than the proposed boundary change is very difficult to say.

    I suspect this paradox is an inevitable consequence of using the same boundaries for a first-past-the-post election and also a multi-member PR election and that it would probably be impossible to construct a set of boundaries from which some such contraryness was absent.

    And even if it were managed, it would only require a small change in voting or transferring patterns, such as we see at most elections, to throw up a different paradox.

    Best to concentrate on getting boundaries which make the best sense possible, within the rules, on the ground.

  • Gopher

    Thank you and my apologies again
    I like keeping the borders on the Lagan with the Ormeau ward staying in South Belfast. Rossetta I see no reason to move out of South West Belfast and it has a close affinity with Ormeau. Ideally Belfast should have a central constituency which is part of my thinking and I would have been tempted to have swapped Colin Glenn and Duncairn between Southwest and NorthWest Belfast to better represent private rental housing but I dont think many would understand the reasoning and I dont think I would have the skill set to explain.

    As for Down without looking yet at the figures my borders make it easy to alternate between the Southern Border of “East Down” and the Lagan Valley. One or both Carryduffs could find themselves in Lagan Valley to be replaced from the pool of South Down.

    The main problem is North Belfast which I think this largely solves. For Bellvue I see my East Antrim not stretching as far North as yours and being much more urban

  • Nicholas Whyte

    Indeed. And I think what you say reinforces my point that it would make a lot more sense for Assembly elections to be based permanently on the local government boundaries. There is no constitutional logic to locking them to Westminster boundaries – even under Stormont, they were decoupled in 1949, and not re-connected until the 1973 Assembly election.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    my apologies again

    Accepted. It is easy to get worked up about these things.

    Ideally Belfast should have a central constituency

    I admit I had not thought of this. I wonder if one could have a Central Belfast constituency, combined with a North Belfast that extends into Newtownabbey, a South West Belfast that extends into Lisburn, and an East Belfast which would probably need both Dundonald and Holywood? I suspect that this may create bigger problems in County Down, though, given the restricted geography between Lisburn and Lough Neagh. It also seems to me to overstate the links between the city and the periphery.

  • Ryan A

    The problem with doing so is you would need to have some seats with 5 seats (Fermanagh/Omagh) and some with 10 (Armagh/Banbridge/Craigavon). While in theory that might be OK, In our world where the word gerrymander is thrown around very easily (and this thread is proof) you could find in one case the minority community may need as much as 14-16% in one seat and misses out (Potentially Nationalists in Lisburn/Castlereagh or Mid & East Antrim for example) whereas Derry/Strabane or Newry/Down have much larger electorates entitling them to more seats where the minority community could only need as much as 9/10% to get a seat. Arguably the Republic do this already but in a society such as NI it is probably best that an even playing field of some sorts exists for the foreseeable future.

  • mjh

    Not so Ryan A,
    Using the local government boundaries would not leave more nationalist and unionist voters stranded in constituencies with insufficient numbers to elect an MLA. Quite the reverse.

    Currently, using Westminster boundaries, unionists have no MLA in West Belfast. While nationalists have no MLA in East Belfast, North Down, Strangford or Lagan Valley.

    In an 80 seat Assembly where each District Council was a constituency (with Belfast divided into two West and East), based on the 2014 council election votes there would be no constituency without a unionist MLA and only one (North Down and Ards) would be certain to be without a nationalist. Mid and East Antrim showed 0.90 of a nationalist quota (based on a poor year for nationalism) so there is every likelihood that it could have one.

    Sadly no one seems to worry about the voters for centre parties who live in constituencies without enough votes to elect someone.

  • Gopher

    You can have a Belfast central Belfast constituency that encompasses its commercial area. A central Belfast constituency in an ideal world looks great and looks like something normal cities would have.

    SYDENHAM 3,333
    CONNSWATER 3,532
    WOODSTOCK 3,072
    RAVENHILL 3,062
    ORMEAU 3,409
    CENTRAL 4,342
    BLACKSTAFF 3,682
    WINDSOR 3,804
    MALONE 3,399
    FALLS PARK 3,646
    BEECHMOUNT 3,497
    FALLS PARK 3,646
    DUNCAIRN 3,731
    NEW LODGE 3,310
    WATER WORKS 3,757

    Unfortunately no other constituency especially on the North Down and Strangford side would fit with natural geography and one or the other would have to extend into Belfast’s suburbs (East Belfast being the make way) North Belfast’s make up would then become divisive and unacceptable to many I imagine with a central Belfast constituency borrowing some of its areas

  • Good job as always, Nicholas. I couldn’t find the ward electorates for 1 December 2015 for Westminster, only for local government. On that basis I went ahead. Most of my 17 ended up similar to yours, but with significant differences in County Antrim and middle County Down. My main quibble with your 17 would be that unnecessarily splitting Lisburn, NI’s third city, is unlikely to pass. Similarly, there would be objections to the split of Banbridge.

    I tinkered with 4 seat Belfast models, but it produced awkwardly shaped constituencies elsewhere, so the best way was to reduce Belfast to 3 seats and start in the south west to produce seats within 5%.

    FERMANAGH & SOUTH TYRONE was effectively the current constituency. The DEAs of Dungannon, Clogher Valley, Erne north, east and west and Enniskillen.

    WEST TYRONE was a slightly expanded version of the current seat. The DEAs of Omagh, Mid Tyrone, West Tyrone, Derg and Sperrin. Plus the wards of Oaklands, Pomeroy and Donaghmore.

    FOYLE was basically the 2005 version of that seat. The DEAs of Faughan, The Moor, Foyleside, Ballyarnet and Waterside.

    MID ULSTER (or GLENSHANE) was the remainder of Mid Ulster plus the former Limavady district (Limavady and Benbradagh DEAs)

    CAUSEWAY COAST (&GLENS) was the other Causeway coast DEAs. Basically the former Coleraine, Moyle and Ballymoney councils.

    Things diverged more from there. Last time round, I’d also recommended combining Ballymena with Antrim. This time, another arrangement seemed better.

    MID ANTRIM, Ballymena, Bannside, Braid, Coast Road DEAs, together with Curran, Kilwaughter and Ballycarry wards.

    SOUTH EAST ANTRIM was basically urban Newtownabbey combined with the former Carrick council. Whitehead and Islandmagee wards, the DEAs of Carrick Castle, Knockagh, Macedon and Glengormley Urban, with 5 of ThreeMile Water’s 6 (all except Mossley.)

    SOUTH WEST ANTRIM consisted of Mossley ward and the DEAs of Ballyclare, Dunsilly, Airport, Antrim, Killultagh and Downshire west (with the exception of Blaris ward.)

    LISBURN AND CASTLEREAGH was Blaris ward with the 2 Lisburn DEAs, both Castlereagh DEAs and Downshire East.

    Belfast was very similar to your arrangement.

    BELFAST NORTH WEST: Castle, Oldpark, Court along with Ballymurphy, Beechmount and Turf Lodge wards.

    BELFAST SOUTH WEST: Falls Park, Shaws Road and Andersonstown wards, along with Collin, Balmoral and Botanic (Except Ormeau ward.)

    BELFAST EAST: Lisnasharragh, Titanic and Ormiston DEAs, Ormeau and Loughview wards.

    NORTH DOWN: Holywood DEA (except Loughview), the 3 Bangor DEAs and Ards Peninsula.

    EAST DOWN: All of Comber, Newtownards, Downpatrick and Rowallane DEAs. All of Slieve Croob except Castlewellan ward.

    SOUTH DOWN: Castlewellan ward. All of Crotlieve, The Mournes and Banbridge DEAs. Quilly, Dromore and Gransha wards.

    UPPER BANN: Portadown, Lurgan and Craigavon DEAs. Donaghcloney, Waringstown and Tandragee wards.

    NEWRY AND ARMAGH: Cusher DEA (except Tandragee), the complete DEAs of Armagh, Newry and Slieve Gullion.

    In any such proposal, there will be issues. I wasn’t excited about putting Downshire West in with Antrim, but that was the best solution given the tight quota. However, I do believe that solution has advantages over yours. It keeps Lisburn and urban Newtownabbey together as the focal points of a “south of Belfast commuter constituency” and a “north of Belfast commuter constituency” respectively. Banbridge also stays intact. I also think a Ballymena-Larne constituency works better than one snaking from Ballyclare through Jordanstown and then up to Ballycastle.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    Hi John,

    Thanks for crunching through this. I too had to use the local government electors rather than the parliamentary electors. I don’t envy the electoral office trying to establish the precise parliamentary electorate on 1/12/15.

    I think your Mid Ulster / Glenshane is too big. My Mid Ulster is 72,703. You want to take off the two Bann DEA wards of Garvagh and Kilrea that I had included, 4,907, and add two more Benbradagh wards, Ballykelly and Greysteel, 5,243, and then also add the Limavady DEA, 11,143. That makes 84,182 which is way over the limit, and I’m afraid that fatally skews a lot of the other seats in Antrim. (I guess you maybe omitted one of the Mid Ulster DEAs in your calculation?)

    I have some sympathy with giving the southern Antrim constituencies what is effectively a radial relationship with Belfast, and your County Down is admittedly much tidier than mine, but I think you need to look at your County Antrim again.

  • You’re absolutely right. I’d omitted to count Coalisland and Washing Bay in Glenshane, with the result that it is too big. But that’s fixable. Washing Bay goes to Fermanagh South Tyrone. Loughry ward goes to West Tyrone and Magilligan ward goes to Causeway Coast. That produces a Glenshane with less than 78,000. The Antrim constituencies are not affected by that.

  • Ryan A should help – has the new ward structure too.