Published Tuesday, 31 January 2012
Peter Robinson leader of DUP (© UTV)
The Boundary Commission plans to reduce the number of Westminster seats in Northern Ireland from 18 to 16 - prompting concerns in some areas which would be reassigned.
Among the controversial proposals are the removals of Ballymena and Coleraine from their current North Antrim and East Londonderry constituencies - moves described as "brutal" by the DUP.
Ballymena would form part of the newly created Mid-Antrim constituency, joining Larne, Carrickfergus and Glenarm - while outlying villages, such as Broughshane and Portglenone, would remain in North Antrim.
Areas including Carnlough, Cushendall and Cushendun would no longer be designated to East Antrim, instead also joining North Antrim.
Overall the commission's proposals have a disproportionately negative impact upon unionism. The effect permeates the proposals, leading to the conclusion that it is no accident.
On the North Coast, the Triangle area of Coleraine, Portrush and Portstewart would join the North Antrim constituency - amid plans to scrap East Londonderry and replace it with a new Glenshane constituency and the re-designated Foyle.
The DUP expressed further concern over changes affecting Belfast - where the current four constituencies would be replaced by just three, at the expense of the SDLP-held South Belfast seat.
A new South East Belfast constituency would omit the mainly unionist Dundonald and Braniel areas.
"The term gerrymander is one that should not be quickly or lightly thrown about by anyone," the party said of the proposals.
"However, in terms of the proposed South East Belfast, the DUP feels that it can legitimately be used - both in terms of the boundary with South West (Belfast) and Strangford."
The Boundary Commission - which, under the rules of the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986, "may take into consideration any local ties that would be broken by changes in constituencies" - has rejected the DUP smear.
A spokesman said: "We conducted our business properly and thoroughly in accordance with the procedures laid down in the legislation and the outcome of elections is none of our business."
The SDLP also opposed the loss of the South Belfast seat, currently held by Alasdair McDonnell.
"This will severely reduce the impact that Belfast, as the economic driver and the largest city in the north of Ireland, has - and goes against previous Boundary Commission recommendations which ensured that Belfast retain its four seats," the party's submission said.
After a 12-week public consultation on the boundary proposals, 38 representations were received by the commission - a further four-week consultation is now underway.
Views are invited up until February 27 and final proposals are expected in 2013, either by spring or early summer.
© UTV News