Odd, isn’t it, how little attention we pay to the creation of constituencies. In the good old bad old days, nationalists and republicans knew that wards and boundaries were mapped out so that the result would be a unionist majority wherever possible – and even where seemingly impossible, as was the case in Derry, where one-third of the population miraculously elected two-thirds of the Corporation.
Nowadays that’s gone, but we’re presently in the throes of having boundaries for Westminster elections redrawn – and these will apply to Assembly elections also. The result will be that we’ll be electing 17 MPs, not the present 18, and the Assembly will reduce by 12 MLAs, from 108 to 96.
Constituency boundaries have to be redrawn, we’re told, so that different constituencies are roughly equal – within 5% of each other. That’s a worthwhile goal and a tricky one to achieve.
I’m going to pass on which political party will gain most from these changes, but here are two questions I’d quite like answered:
(i) Are you happy with the composition of the Boundary Commission membership?
(ii) Are you happy with the criteria they apply when creating a constituency?
Under (i), I suspect you like me would have to do some thinking before you’d be able to say who are members of the Commission and how they got the job. Since it creates the foundation on which any democratic election system rests, you’d think maybe the Commission itself would be democratically constituted. Alas, you would be wrong if you did.
The chairman of the Commission is the Speaker of the House of Commons. The deputy chair is a High Court judge appointed by the Lord Chief Justice. The other two Commissioners are appointed by the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Presumably all these people are very good at counting. They are not, however, representatives of the people. As Ricky Tomlinson might have said: democracy my arse.
And what about the creation of the constituencies? Well, the idea of having each equally weighted , within 5% of difference, is pretty good. Not easy to achieve. But hold….What are the criteria that are being used to decide how big each constituency is?
If you’re a simple-minded person like myself you might assume it’s based on the population – the same number of people in each constituency being the goal. But it’s not. It’s based on the number of people appearing on the electoral register.
There’s a dark little side of me that rejoices in that – a good hefty kick up the rear for those who don’t bother to make sure they’re entitled to vote. But that apart, is using the electoral register better or worse than using population numbers?
Population numbers immediately run into the difficulty that a great swathe of people won’t be able to vote – all those under eighteen years old. But would it be possible for the Boundary Commission to exclude all those under eighteen and use the rest to count the numbers per constituency? Of course it would. But instead they’ve decided that if you didn’t register to vote last time, you count for diddly-squat when deciding on constituency size this time. That seems to me a case of punishing the general public because of the failure of individuals to make sure they have a vote.
So in its composition, the Commission shows no respect for democracy – they’re just hand-picked from among the powerful in our society. In at least one of its criteria for creation of constituencies, it uses figures that essentially say “You didn’t vote last time, so you’re not going to matter when we create the areas from which people vote for a particular candidate”. Among other things, it shows scant faith in an individual’s ability to change his/her ways.
Most of us don’t bother much with the boundary thing,choosing to focus on the candidates who stand in those electoral areas. Which is a pity, because boring though it may be, the base from which people are elected, and the people who make the decisions, are enormously important. Everything else rests on them. Which is probably why we’re encouraged not to think about such matters too much.
“In the good old bad old days, nationalists and republicans knew that wards and boundaries were mapped out so that the result would be a unionist majority wherever possible – and even where seemingly impossible, as was the case in Derry, where one-third of the population miraculously elected two-thirds of the Corporation”
Apart from Derry have you other examples to support the assertion that boundaries were mapped out so that the result would be a unionist majority?
Enniskillen The principal town of County Fermanagh, of which the Nationalists make up 54% of the population. EMPLOYMENT Of the 7 jobs in the Town Clerk’s Department there are no Nationalists; of the 7 jobs in the Borough Surveyor’s office there is ONE Nationalist; of the 34 jobs in the Fermanagh Education Department there is ONE Nationalist; of the 28 jobs in the County Surveyor’s Department there is ONE Nationalist. VOTING POSITION Nationalist Voters in the County—27,291. Conservative and Unionist Voters in the County- 24,322. Due to gerrymandering, there were 20 Unionist and 6 Nationalist County Councillors.
Lurgan Nationalist people make up 42% of the Borough. There were no Nationalist members on the Borough Council because of the use of the “block system” of voting
The population here was 53% Nationalist. By means of gerrymandering and the ‘Company Vote,’ the Conservative and Unionists had 14 seats on the Urban Council as against 7 for the Nationalists.
Those figures of course could relate to the franchise rather than gerrymandering (one even mentiomed the property franchise).
And even if it was gerrymandering it’s only four councils.
Any figures for Newry or Armagh?
moving the goalposts now you got what you asked for.
“moving the goalposts now you got what you asked for.”
On the contrary, the goalposts remain where Jude put them and neither you nor he nor anyone else has provided what I asked for.
I’m beginning to think maybe Jude was exaggerating?
Now you are denying your post – you asked if there was any other examples than Derry and you got them. But deny away, always a trait in a unionist
“Now you are denying your post – you asked if there was any other examples than Derry and you got them. But deny away, always a trait in a unionist”
I’m not ‘denying my post’ (whatever that means).
Why do you think I was asking if there were other examples? (Clue: read the quoted text which provides the context for the question.)
“And even if it was gerrymandering it’s only four councils”
Oh, that makes it OK…..of course, that’s if it was gerrymandering, IF……despite the Cameron report clearly showing there was gerrymandering on a large, systematic scale (all backed up by evidence), its still an “IF” when it comes to MT…..what next? the testimony of a Catholic is only worth half that of a Protestant in court? why not? that’s the way it worked in Derry, the vote of a Catholic was worth less than half that of a Protestant……
And we wonder why the troubles erupted and this state is an utter failure and disaster…..of course, if you listen to the BBC, apparently Catholics love this state….despite less than 1% voting for Unionist political parties…..
“Oh, that makes it OK…..”
Why would you think it was OK?
“of course, that’s if it was gerrymandering, IF……despite the Cameron report clearly showing there was gerrymandering on a large, systematic scale (all backed up by evidence), its still an “IF” when it comes to MT…..what next? the testimony of a Catholic is only worth half that of a Protestant in court? why not? that’s the way it worked in Derry, the vote of a Catholic was worth less than half that of a Protestant……”
I take it, then, you don’t have any evidence to support Jude’s assertion that there was gerrymandering “wherever possible”?
“Apart from Derry have you other examples to support the assertion that boundaries were mapped out so that the result would be a unionist majority?”
Its not an “assertion”, its a fact MT.
The Nationalist majority in the county, i.e., Fermanagh, notwithstanding a reduction of 336 in the year, stands at 3,684. We must ultimately reduce and LIQUIDATE that majority. This county, I think it can be safely said, is a Unionist county. The atmosphere is Unionist. The Boards and properties are nearly all controlled by Unionists. But there is still this millstone [the Nationalist majority] around our necks.”
E.C. Ferguson, Unionist Party, then Stormont MP, April 1948
Later resigned from Parliament in October 1949 to become Crown Solicitor for County Fermanagh.
Reported in: Irish News, 13 April 1948
“Its not an “assertion”, its a fact MT.”
Then you’ll have no problem providing the evidence requested?
“We are not going to build houses in the South Ward and cut a rod to beat ourselves later on.”
“We are going to see that the right people are put into these houses and we are not making any apology for it.”
—ALDERMAN GEORGE ELLIOTT AT ENNISKILLEN ON 7/11/’63.
Why do you need another example MT?
“Why do you need another example MT?”
Because I’m trying to establish evidence for Jude’s assertion that there was gerrymandering ‘wherever possible’.
I’m coming to the conclusion, however, that he was exaggerating.
what makes you think the non voters care what the british commission does or doesnt do.
if voting changed anything it would be banned still rings true today,you only need to look at stormont as an example.
Methodology, dear boy, methodology. The Beeb devoted a fair bit of time this week to the work of the Boundary Commission. Let me rephrase that sentence. The Beeb devoted a bit of time this week to the work of the Boundary Commission. Much of the time was taken up with the proposed name of the Glenshane boundary.
In 1924, the Irish Boundary Commission was set up to negotiate the border between the north of Ireland and the Irish Free State. Eoin MacNeill was a member of the Commission. On 7 November 1925 a Conservative British newspaper, The Morning Post, published a leaked map showing part of east Donegal that was to be transferred to the new state against the wishes of the Commission. MacNeill resigned from the Commission on 20 November 1925 and just look at the state we are in, in September 2016. It is bordering on the absurd. Well perhaps not, property speculators, sorry, entrepreneurs no longer recognise the soft border.
“On 7 November 1925 a Conservative British newspaper, The Morning Post, published a leaked map showing part of east Donegal that was to be transferred to the new state against the wishes of the Commission.”
What do you mean against the wishes of the Commission?
There is evidence available in relation to a meeting which included Mr Stanley Baldwin in a room in the House of Commons on 3 December 1925. Prior to that on 20th November 1925, Dr. MacNeill, went to the High Commissioner’s Office. The minutes of the previous meeting having been read, they were proceeding to deal with the Agenda, when Dr. MacNeill asked leave to make a statement about the Morning Post “revelations.” He emphasised the word “revelations.” Mr Justice Feetham replied that the Morning Post statement was not accurate, but admitted, in response to a question from Dr. MacNeill, that it was substantially correct. Dr. MacNeill explained that the fixing of a boundary line such as that indicated in the Morning Post would be a violation of the Treaty. Dr MacNeill also queried the newspaper article given the obligation to secrecy imposed on the Commission.
Did we ever get a vote on the findings of the border commission like we were promised or did the British lie about that?
Jude – where are you getting your numbers? I thought we were going to 17 MPs so only down by 1 and MLAs will be 5 per constituency (as opposed to current 6) so 85 (17 times 5). Am I wrong on that?
I’ll double check, Brian. I was somewhat along the same lines myself but then I checked and got these figures. Watch this space…
Down here in the Free Southern Stateen, , Esteemed Blogmeister, there is still only one Boundary Commission.: the one set up in the Roaring Twenties by boring bounders for bounders and other fixers who wished to fix the boundary to the onward power walk of a Nation.
THREE CHEERS FOR THE AFFRONTIER !
Dail Eireann, when it comes to The Border,
Prides itself on its attention deficit disorder
Dare to compare the Black S’s Dyke
To a throw back of a UK Third Reich
Tiocfaidh do law and order with a Warder.
Mistake in title there, EB, which oughter read:
THREE PROVINCIAL CHEERS FOR THE AFFRONTIER. !
Magherafelt was gerrymandered also.
“Magherafelt was gerrymandered also.”
Do you have evidence for this?
‘And what about the creation of the constituencies? Well, the idea of having each equally weighted , within 5% of difference, is pretty good. Not easy to achieve. But hold….What are the criteria that are being used to decide how big each constituency is?’
This rings, to me, as twenty first Century gerrymandering, to make Derry east (curiously my PC gives ‘Derry’ as mis spelled) somewhat octopus like to get a near equal number of nationalist voters, same in Belfast west for the unionists, and in other constituencies.
From what I’ve read, the boundary changes mean we will be losing 1 MP and the name “Londonderry”, which has angered some Unionists. Overall, it looks like the new Boundary Changes will put many Unionist held seats at risk. Fermanagh/South Tyrone, which is a Nationalist majority but was lost due to a Unionist pact and the SDLP splitting the vote, will have more nationalist towns/villages added from Tyrone. If the changes go ahead then it looks like even a Unionist pact (and the SDLP splitting the vote) wont be able to keep that seat for Unionism. Tom Elliot only represents a minority of the people in F/ST, so it is fitting and only right he loses that seat and these boundary changes will ensure it will be out of Unionist hands for good.
Belfast will be cut into 3rds. West Belfast will be split between North and South Belfast. East Belfast will become more Unionist. According to the articles I’ve read, it would take a Unionist pact in order for Unionism to hold onto North Belfast and to stand a chance of winning South Belfast. If SF/SDLP make pacts then Belfast will definitely be 2/3 Nationalist. The SDLP will most likely need a pact to hold onto Belfast South.
I don’t have much information on the effects the boundary changes will have on the rest of the North but I heard that Lagan Valley, a DUP seat, will have Nationalist towns/areas added to it from, I think, Newry and Mourne. Gregory Campbell’s constituency will apparently have more nationalist areas added from Mid Ulster and will lose the name “Londonderry”, which I’m sure will make Gregory more upset than many of his own voters losing jobs and living in poverty.
Overall if the changes go through (there’s still consultation) then it will open up many opportunities for Nationalism. But it requires the SDLP and SF working together, making pacts and working in the general interest of Nationalism instead of petty party interests. When you look at how long Nationalist voters in Nationalist majority areas were chained to Unionist MP’s for decades who were openly working AGAINST their interests all because Nationalist politicians wouldn’t work together. It was only because of the growth of the nationalist population that Mid Ulster, South Down and Newry and Mourne were won despite splits in the Nationalist vote and Unionist pacts.
We should always remember what Fr.Alec Reid said: “It isn’t because of Unionism that we don’t have a United Ireland, its because Nationalism wont come together”. Its time for Republicans/Nationalists to put aside pettiness and work together. As a Republican I’m willing to do that and take on board and respect the opinions/views of other Nationalists.
only our rivers run free…the commission lol.
“”All the accusations of gerrymandering, practically all the complaints about housing and regional policy, and a disproportionate amount of the charges about public and private employment come from this area. The area – which consisted of Counties Tyrone and Fermanagh, Londonderry County Borough, and portions of Counties Londonderry and Armagh – had less than a quarter of the total population of Northern Ireland yet generated not far short of three-quarters of the complaints of discrimination…The unionist government must bear its share of responsibility. It put through the original gerrymander which underpinned so many of the subsequent malpractices, and then, despite repeated protests, did nothing to stop those malpractices continuing. The most serious charge against the Northern Ireland government is not that it was directly responsible for widespread discrimination, but that it allowed discrimination on such a scale over a substantial segment of Northern Ireland” – Prof John Whyte, UCD
this is what the BBC are teaching our British children as fact, shame on them? Someone should write to Nelson and the DUP.
“this is what the BBC are teaching our British children as fact, shame on them? Someone should write to Nelson and the DUP”
Which part isn’t factual?
The BBC? Me thinks you’ll find it’s been taught in classrooms too.
I recently learnt of a pupil being reported for being ‘sectarian’ by one of her peers. The pupil had simply opined that she didn’t like learning about British history and would rather learn about irish history! Ffs if this is the standard of education in these pesky(according to unionists) Catholic controlled schools then we are doomed. Northernirelandism is bounding along nicely in the classrooms and Nesbit,Robinson etc know it. They just sound off now and again to make sure it stays that way.
Excuse the blatant plug but Faha’s take on things (including predictions) is now available over at B/Dub central 😉 https://bangordub.wordpress.com/2016/09/11/the-details-revealed-2018-westminster-boundary-review/comment-page-1/#comment-10868
Very welcome, Bangordub. GET OVER THERE,guys…