Mid Ulster constituency to disappear in new electoral map

BOUNDARY changes expected to be brought in before the next General Election will significantly change the voting landscape in the Mid Ulster area.

The current constituency of Mid Ulster will be sliced in half with all north of and including Moneymore, Lissan and the Loup becoming part of the new Glenshane constituency which stretches and includes Coleraine and Limavady.

The southern half of the current Mid Ulster constituency will merge into a newly formed Mid Tyrone with boundaries stretching from Coalisland and Ardboe on the shores of Lough Neagh, taking in Cookstown taking in Coagh, Stewartstown, Sandholes, Oaklands and Pomeroy. It stretches as far west to the Donegal border taking in Omagh, Castlederg and Sion Mills.

The changes, if they are approved would mean Cookstown District Council area would be split between two different Westminster constituencies.

Indeed if the Review of Public Administration proposals include the amalgamation of Cookstown, Magherafelt and Dungannon District Councils there could be a situation where the new Super Council would also be served with three MPs, 18 different MLAs as well as how ever many councillors.

With so many different boundaries within one region this could cause confusion if there were, for example, two elections on one day.

The Mid Ulster seat currently held by MP Martin McGuinness would no longer exist. SF Councillor Ciaran McElhone said the proposals would have to be looked at very carefully and the party will be making a submission to the Boundaries Commission.

“While we are confident in these areas, the changes could cause a lot of confusion come polling day,” said Councillor McElhone.

And the new boundaries in certain areas have not impressed particularly the unionist politicians who feel the electoral maps drawn up by the Commission are being “gerrymandered”.

The DUP has described plans to reduce Northern Ireland’s Westminster seats and create constituencies of roughly the same size as “atrocious”.

The Commission proposals would reduce the number of local MPs from 18 to 16 with the aim of reducing the number of MPs at Westminster from 650 to 600.

The changes would also create constituencies which have electorates between 72,810 and 80,473.

The plan is to create a seat that has an average electorate of 76,641 voters.

In their submission to the Boundary Commission, which was released on Tuesday, the DUP described the plans as “flawed”.

The party criticised the new boundaries saying they would have a “negative impact on unionism”.

A spokesman for the Boundary Commission denied the accusation and said they had carried out their business properly and thoroughly in line with legislation.

The spokesman said they rejected the DUP accusation and said “the outcome of elections is none of our business”.

The SDLP have also criticised the proposal to cut the number of Belfast seats from four to three.

In their submission the party argue the plans are flawed and need to reflect the identity and community “rather than just a numerical balancing exercise”.

The party also said the proposals “devastate” four rural constituencies west of the Bann - Mid Ulster, West Tyrone, Fermanagh South Tyrone and East Londonderry.

The Ulster Unionist Party said the proposals would not be “universally welcomed in a number of constituencies”.

The party highlighted changes which, in their view, would “cut identifiable local ties”.

The party said under the boundary reforms towns like Cookstown, Ballymena, Coleraine and Omagh would be cut off from their natural hinterlands.

The plan is to have the new boundaries in place for the next general election.