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Nigel Dodds: Boundary changes 'will hit unionist representation'

DUP MP Nigel Dodds has hit out at proposed boundary changes. Picture by Hugh Russell
Ed Carty

A senior DUP politician has accused electoral chiefs of 'taking a machete' to the north's parliamentary constituencies.

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds lashed out at proposals to cut the number of seats in the city from four to three and claimed changes will have a detrimental effect on unionist representation.

The number of Northern Ireland MPs will fall from 18 to 17 at the next election under the plan. Political commentators have suggested the changes could mean there will be no unionist MP in Belfast.

The proposals would also see the name Londonderry disappear from parliamentary elections, with the constituency formally known as East Londonderry replaced by Glenshane.

Mr Dodds is likely to be one of the high-profile politicians in a fight for electoral survival if the redrawn boundaries go ahead.

"It will drastically affect voters and will change the political make-up in Northern Ireland significantly," the DUP deputy leader and director of elections said.

The DUP claimed the new constituency maps are the biggest electoral shake-up since 1983.

As well as carving Belfast into three Westminster seats - east, north-west and south-west - redrawn and renamed constituencies seats outside the city would include Dalriada, Glenshane, North Tyrone, Upper Bann and Blackwater, West Antrim and West Down.

Another eight would retain their names - East Antrim, Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Foyle, Newry and Armagh, North Down, South Antrim, South Down, and Strangford - but see slight changes to boundaries.

Mr Dodds said: "We need to make sure everyone is fairly represented. This is something no elected representative would disagree with.

"However, these boundary commission proposals will have a detrimental effect on unionist representation. The proposals do not take into consideration the natural hinterlands of many major cities and towns in Northern Ireland. That is something which is of particularly concern as these shape communities."

The review is part of a wider plan to reduce MP numbers from 650 to 600 by the time of the next election in May 2020.

The public will be given a chance to air their views on the changes before any revisions are published in early 2018.

Four public hearings are planned during October in Ballymena, Omagh, Belfast and Portadown.

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