The Boundary Commission’s proposals to remove the South Belfast Westminster seat in future elections has come in for criticism from several prominent organisations.
The groups, which included An Droichead cultural centre, the Lower Ormeau Residents’ Action Group (LORAG) and Sandy Row Community Forum, were responding to a public consultation on plans by the commission to reduce Northern Ireland’s seats from 18 to 16, a result of which would be the disappearance of South Belfast and the amalgamation of its wards into new Belfast South-East and Belfast South-West constituencies.
The consultation opened last Tuesday (January 31) and runs until February 27. To date, a number of local community, residents and political groups have replied to the proposals, which aim to reduce the amount of MPs at Westminster from 650 to 600. The West Tyrone and East Londonderry seats would also disappear to be replaced with an incorporated constituency.
A submission to the Boundary Commission from the An Droichead cultural group states the Lower Ormeau organisation is “concerned” that the move would have a detrimental effect on its work by “excluding” the Markets from the rest of the new Belfast South-East constituency.
“The Markets area depends on its links with the Lower Ormeau and Short Strand areas for its sense of community and indeed there is a strong continuity between the areas which is supported by various community structures,” it states.
“One of these structures, the Inner South Neighbourhood Area Partnership also encompasses the Donegall Pass community. Anything that would have the effect of putting up barriers to this nascent cross-community productivity would be a retrograde step for all of the communities of inner South Belfast.”
The Lower Ormeau Residents’ Action Group chairman John Gormley backs this view, saying the proposals “fail to take into account local geography and identity of communities”.
“We are currently working with the local business community on the Ormeau Road, which draws representation from the whole road. Under the provisional proposals the Ormeau Road would be divided between two constituencies, weakening their collective voice and representation.
“Politically, the predominantly loyalist communities resident in the Village and Sandy Row, which are two of the most deprived neighbourhoods in Northern Ireland, would become a minority voice within the broader Belfast South-West constituency, as would residents of the Markets and Lower Ormeau within Belfast South-East.”
Other groups to write to the Boundary Commission criticising the proposals include the Blackstaff Community Development Association, South-East Belfast Sinn Féin, the office of South Belfast MP Alasdair McDonnell, the Inner South Neighbourhood Partnership Board, the South Belfast Partnership Board, Ormeau Business Park and Sandy Row Community Forum.