Northern Ireland news

Man wins permission to challenge new electoral boundary plans

Image taken from the Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland's website of a revised proposal for the electoral boundaries in Northern Ireland. Picture by Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland  

A MAN has won High Court permission to challenge plans for new electoral constituencies in Northern Ireland.

He was granted leave today to seek a judicial review of the Boundary Commission for NI's final recommendations.

Plans published last September will see the the north's 18 parliamentary seats cut to 17 as part of a wider move to slash the number of MPs from 650 to 600.

Unlike earlier proposals which involved Belfast dropping to three constituencies, the city is to retain four seats under the final recommendations.

Lawyers for the man, who is from Belfast, claimed the commission had acted unlawfully and unfairly.

Map issued by the Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland setting out its revised electoral constituency proposals. Picture by Boundary Commission for NI

Click here for a full-sized map

Described as "a constituent affected by the changes to the electoral boundaries proposed by the Boundary Commission", he was given anonymity.

The planned constituency shake-up provoked political controversy, with Sinn Féin claiming it would leave several constituencies without any nationalist representation.

Central to the legal challenge is a rule within the relevant legislation which allows the commission to deviate from a 5 per cent range of the UK electoral quota when considering constituency size.

David Scoffield QC, for the man taking the case, argued that the authority had shifted away from its provisional recommendations by relying on the rule without a proper legal basis.

"Why has the commission suddenly turned about face in such a radical way," he submitted.

Tony McGleenan QC, for the commission, insisted changes to the proposals were were in response to "a healthy and procedurally correct consultation process".

However, Mr Justice McCloskey ruled that the man behind the challenge had established an arguable case on points of alleged unlawfulness, procedural unfairness and failure to consult.

The judge granted leave to seek a judicial review and listed the case for full hearing in May.

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