UUP wanted to sacrifice Eglinton to Glenshane
THE Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) wanted to abandon Eglinton to a proposed new ‘Glenshane constituency’ in order to allow Macosquin’s inclusion in an electoral area comprising Coleraine and North Antrim, the Sentinel can reveal.
The UUP were willing to detach the Eglinton ward and its 2,955 electors from the Londonderry polity to which it traditionally gravitates.
The party felt it was worth sacrificing Eglinton to a new constituency stretching from Greysteel to Cookstown in order to maintain Macosquin’s link with Coleraine.
However, the Boundary Commission, which has been appointed to review parliamentary constituencies in Northern Ireland, rejected the UUP proposal and opted to keep Eglinton in a new Foyle County Constituency and keep Macosquin in the new Glenshane constituency.
The Commission has also rejected calls from the DUP, SDLP, the Alliance Party and a number of individual respondents to return Claudy and Banagher to a Londonderry-centred constituency due to the villages’ close links with the city.
Close to 5,000 electors in Claudy and Banagher, will in instead in future, be represented by the same MP that represents Moneymore and The Loup.
The villages were only recently transferred from Foyle to East Londonderry. But the Commission has decided to “retain” them in the new Glenshane area.
The revelations were made as the Boundary Commission published its Revised Proposals Report for the 6th Review of the Northern Ireland parliamentary constituencies for an eight week final consultation period.
After considering all the responses to the provisional proposals for 16 new constituencies, which it published in September 2011, the Commission has decided to make a number of changes. The consultation period will run until December 10, 2012 during which comments are invited on the revised proposals.
According to the Commission’s report the UUP were willing to abandon Eglinton to Glenshane.
The report states: “While the UUP accepted that there is no ready solution to severing Coleraine from its western hinterland, they proposed that Macosquin should be included in North Antrim rather than Glenshane, balanced by moving Eglinton from Foyle into Glenshane.”
However, the Commission decided against this as it would have reduced the electorate of the proposed new Foyle constituency to such a degree that it would have had to invoke discretionary but limited powers in order to do so.
It decided against the use of these ‘Rule 7’ powers under Schedule 2 to the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011.
The Commission decided: “While the Commission is sympathetic to proposals which seek to reunite Coleraine with parts of its western hinterland, this would require the application of Rule 7.
“It has accordingly decided not to recommend any revision of the provisional proposals for this boundary.” Thus Eglinton stays with Londonderry.
Whilst the UUP was the lone voice calling for Eglinton to be moved into Glenshane to compensate for Macosquin’s dreamed-of move into Coleraine and North Antrim a range of respondents thought it sensible to link Claudy and Banager with Londonderry.
The Alliance Party sympathised with the proposal to place the villages in “Foyle instead of the Strabane wards (Slieve Kirk, Dunnamanagh and Artigarvan) to maintain the integrity of Derry and Strabane.”
The DUP also wanted them in the Foyle area. They emphasised the orientation of the two wards towards Londonderry in terms of services and transport links.
The SDLP also agreed on the grounds that their voters saw themselves as part of the city.
According to the Commissions report, however, Claudy and Banagher were needed to bring the new electorate of Glenshane up to the required range of between 72,810 and 80,473 electors, regardless of their strong links with Londonderry.
“The Commission considered that there was merit in proposals to locate Claudy and Banagher in the Foyle constituency. However, representations varied in how to deal with the ripple effects, whether by using Rule 7 for Foyle or by retaining at least one of the three Strabane wards.
“The main problem was how to bring Glenshane within the electoral range, with most proposals involving compensatory adjustments and breaking of local ties at Cookstown.
“The Claudy and Banagher wards are not currently within the Foyle constituency, so moving them would mean changing an existing constituency boundary,” the authors considered.
Thus the Commission decided to “retain” Claudy and Banagher in the Glenshane constituency.
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