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‘Londonderry' name to be lost in Westminster boundary overhaul

West Belfast is among the constituencies that will disappear

THE name 'Londonderry' is set to disappear from the north's electoral map as part of a major shake-up of the region's parliamentary constituencies.

Boundary Commission proposals would see Northern Ireland's 18 constituencies cut to 17, with West Belfast, Lagan Valley and Mid Ulster among those being confined to history.

New constituencies planned as part of the overhaul include Dalriada (replacing much of North Antrim), Belfast North-West, Belfast South West and Glenshane, which will straddle what is now East Derry and parts of Mid Ulster.

Among the most controversial aspects of the revamp is the proposal to redraw the boundaries of Gregory Campbell's East Derry Westminster constituency – officially called East Londonderry – and rename it Glenshane, after the landmark pass in a move that could aggravate unionists.

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Map showing the proposed changes to the boundary map

Further changes in the landmark proposal include:

  • Belfast's four constituencies being reduced to three, with Alasdair McDonnell's South Belfast seat disappearing.
  • West Belfast, arguably the north's best known constituency, being replaced with the republican heartland of the Lower Falls transferring alongside the Shankill ward into the new North West Belfast constituency.
  • The DUP Westminster seat of East Belfast remaining largely intact, although it will now include the more mixed areas of Ormeau, Beechill and Rosetta. However, the new boundary for East Belfast would also take in the loyalist Belvoir estate and the lower Ravenhill Road.
  • A new constituency of West Antrim, which will include Ballymena and Ballymoney
  • A new constituency of Upper Bann and Blackwater, which stretches westward from Portadown to Dungannon.
  • Fermanagh-South Tyrone will retain its name but be extended north, with the new constituency of North Tyrone covering much of what is currently West Tyrone.

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Belfast would be split into three constituencies instead of the current four

The overhaul, which sees Westminster's 650 seats reduced to 600, is designed to make the constituency numbers equal, with eligible voters in each ranging from between 71,000 to 78,500 after the boundary changes.

The commission has published its plans as it launches a 12-week public consultation that will include four public hearings.

It is likely to spell the biggest shake-up of the north's electoral boundaries for decades and should be finalised in time for the 2020 general election.

If the plans are adopted for the assembly elections, scheduled for 2021, it could see the number of MLAs cut by nearly a quarter.

Under the terms of last year's Fresh Start agreement, there are already plans to reduce the number of seats in each constituency from six to five.

Cutting the constituencies from 18 to 17 would see the number of Stormont representatives reduced from the current 108 to 85.

The Boundary Commission began its work in February this year and hopes to present its final plan in two years' time.

The commission's deputy chairman Justice Denise McBride said publishing the proposals signalled the start of a lengthy and inclusive consultation process which was being replicated across Britain.

"Maintaining public confidence in an open, transparent and accessible review process is an important part of the commission’s approach," she said.

"Anyone with an interest in the review is encouraged to contribute to this consultation."

Those wishing to respond to the Boundary Commission proposals can do so by letter, email or online via our website on or before November 28.

:: The commissions public hearings will take place in the Tullyglass hotel, Ballymena on October 5; Silverbirch hotel, Omagh on October 11; Ramada hotel, Shaw's Bridge, Belfast on October 20; and Seagoe hotel, Portadown on October 25. Each hearing will have three sessions running from 10am-1pm; 2pm-4pm; and 6pm-8pm.

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