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UUP's Lord Empey accuses Sinn Féin of `utter hypocrisy' over boundary commission accusations

Lord Empey said the Sinn Féin `never bothered to engage meaningfully with the Boundary Review at any previous stage'. Picture by Hugh Russell

FORMER UUP leader Lord Empey has accused Sinn Féin of "utter hypocrisy" and inaccuracy over claims proposed Parliamentary Boundary changes are "a gerrymander for the 21st century" against nationalists.

In a submission to the Boundary Commission, the republican party criticised the body's proposal to retain four seats in Belfast - a change to an earlier plan was to cut the number of constituencies to three.

It also argued the Commission has been "unduly influenced" by unionist lobbying, especially regarding proposed changes to Fermanagh/South Tyrone.

Lord Empey said the Sinn Féin "never bothered to engage meaningfully with the Boundary Review at any previous stage".

"The Ulster Unionist Party had concerns about the original provisional proposals, largely because we did not believe they respected community ties and that they would cut towns off from natural hinterlands, and we made representations to the Commission in a bid to influence its thinking," he said.

"The latest revised proposals are certainly not perfect but they are an improvement on the provisional proposals which Sinn Féin now seem to be championing."

He added that "in order to reduce Northern Ireland's representation in the House of Commons, our total number of seats will be reduced from 18 to 17, and a unionist seat is being sacrificed, as Lagan Valley and South Antrim are effectively being merged into one constituency".

"In any case, it is utter hypocrisy for Sinn Féin to talk about nationalists being denied representation.

"Thanks to Sinn Féin's refusal to take their seats at Westminster, nobody of any political persuasion in seven constituencies has any representation in the House of Commons, yet Sinn Féin seem totally unconcerned about that."

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