Irish Republican News · September 18, 2011
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Boundary changes pose electoral questions

Proposals to radically change the Westminster constituencies in the North are expected to see the main unionist DUP party, as well as the nationalist SDLP, both lose a valuable seat in the Westminster parliament in London.

The biggest proposed changes to the electoral map since the 1980s would see Belfast lose one of its four constituencies, South Belfast, and the East Derry seat would also be cut.

The four Belfast constituencies will become three -- North Belfast, Southeast Belfast and Southwest Belfast. The removal of East Derry will also see changes to the North Antrim, Mid-Ulster and West Tyrone constituencies, the latter two set to be subsumed into areas called ‘Glenshane’ (sic) and Mid-Tyrone.

Alasdair McDonnell of the SDLP in south Belfast and the DUP’s Gregory Campbell in East Derry are both threatened, according to Six-County election guru Nicholas Whyte. And thanks to the migration into the constituency of some of south Belfast’s wealthiest areas, it is thought that the moderate unionist Alliance Party could yet retain the Westminster seat won from the DUP leader Peter Robinson in southeast Belfast.

Mr Whyte has also projected that all five main parties will lose at least one assembly member because of the knock-on effect on the Stormont forum.

Under the changes the 18 MPs would be cut to 16 with a corresponding cut of 108 assembly members to 96. Professor Whyte said based on the assembly and local government election results in May the DUP, as the largest party, would suffer most in the assembly.

“My very tentative projection of assembly seats is DUP on about 33 (down five), Sinn Fein on 27 (down two), the UUP on 14 (down two), the SDLP on 13 (down one), Alliance on seven (down one) and the Greens and TUV keeping their seats,” he said.

He also suggested that the only independent assembly member, David McClarty, would lose his seat.


Meanwhile, four candidates have entered the contest to succeed Margaret Ritchie as the next leader of the SDLP, all planning to campaign on manifestos of reorganisation and renewal.

At 5pm yesterday - the closing time for nominations - Alasdair McDonnell, the South Belfast Assembly member Conall McDevitt and the West Belfast Minister of the Environment Alex Attwood had joined deputy leader Patsy McGlone in seeking the leadership.

The election to the post will take place at the SDLP annual conference in Belfast in November.

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